Evolved from a futuristic accessory to a ubiquitous health & wellness wearable:
Engineering human factors in smartwatches and wristables
16th October 2021
What factors will gear more consumers to be more comfortable in having a virtual health assistant strapped to their wrist?
Smartwatches were rather simple gadgets when they initially reached the market in the early 2010s, mostly targeted at monitoring exercises for sports fans and fitness geeks. Since then, these wearables have come a long way - they now do more than just track your steps. Evolved from a futuristic accessory to ubiquitous health & wellness wearable - they assist health maintenance by detecting and monitoring vitals, while allowing for multi-device integration both at work and within the home.
According to a report by Counterpoint – despite the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, global smartwatch and wristable shipments increased by 1.5% in comparison to the previous year, with price shift moving premium. The market is expected to increase to 14.5% by 2024 despite the high price tag attached.
As people become more health-conscious in a post-virus world and remote health monitoring becomes a necessity; smartwatch and wristable manufacturers will continue to shift their focus to healthcare rich features for their next phase of growth. But how would such a device fit into a wearer’s experience of health technology? What factors will gear more consumers to be more comfortable in having a virtual health assistant strapped to their wrist?
Engineering Human Factors
In addition to their implication as an innovative, market-disruptive device, smartwatches and wristables are seamlessly designed to appeal to consumers interested in wearables. Plenty of people own and wear smartwatches or fitness trackers. But for devices worn for an extended period of time, as with smartwatches and wristables - comfort is paramount to ensure adherence and long-term use. Proper execution of human factors and usability studies is essential in the design of such wearables to satisfy technical requirements and robust fit - and in some industries, a mandated part of the product development process.
Softmatter places specific emphasis on product designs that champion an ultra-comfortable user experience. Our highly experienced engineering design team has contributed to projects ranging the entire product development spectrum - from conception to production. By thoughtfully pairing design and engineering, we build textile-based wearables that are simple and inexpensive to produce, comfortable and unobtrusive to its users.
Dedicated to solving some of the toughest smart soft engineering challenges, a large component of our work involves technical textiles in the form of complex design structures utilizing advanced techniques such as engineered knits and woven elastics. We’ve worked across the board in terms of materials and constructions to achieve parameters across aesthetics, composition, elasticity and fit. Given our expertise with wearables, we’re able to integrate smart features to textiles in the form of electronics & sensors – allowing for better functionality and miniaturization.
At Softmatter, we work towards collaborating with consumer technology brands with the goal of advancing the wrist worn wearable market. This has enabled us in developing world-class platforms for the evolving movement of wearable technology: the textile itself.
Our smart textile technologies combined with user-centric interfaces can produce a variety of exciting new products. By partnering with our team of skilled engineering experts, we guide you through each step of the development process.
So, what factors do we consider?
Ergonomics and Usability
Softmatter root’s all of our product development efforts in user-centered design practices that mitigate discomfort and prevent poor wearer outcomes. Engineered wrist straps with advanced textiles such as flat knit and woven elastics allow for the creation of entirely new comfortable next-to-skin structures without hindering functionality and long-term use.
Engineered Flat knits enable lightweight, breathable complex structures with specific inhomogeneous textures and complicated geometries. The traditional method of developing bespoke forms consisted of several production stages (cut, sew, welding) with significantly increased time and cost for production. By comparison, in engineered flat knit technology, the production of complex, seamless three-dimensional shapes is manufactured in a fast and waste-free manner.
The manufacturing format precisely engineers’ yarns and fabric variations solely required for load, and the product is developed through a combination of multiple knit structures, allowing for a seamless fit transition. The 18gg 3D CNC knitting process sets up for precise width and thickness control in required locations, along with linear modulus control for form fit in a range of wrist sizes with minimal skin pressure. Other improvements include the exclusions of buckles and clasps - to create a closed anatomical form that mimics the shape of the wrist. The result? A lighter, breathable zero-waste wrist strap that offers a more precise, second-skin feel.
We are responsible for numerous breakthroughs in smart yarn knitting and engineered knit over the last few years and home to the largest Flatbed Knitting facility in South Asia. A facility that fuels much of our knit innovation. Leveraging Flat, Circular, and Warp knitting techniques we create products built for optimal comfort and fit-to-form. Our highly-skilled engineers and developers deliver a competitive difference with our on-site manufacturing facilities committing to ISO 9001 and 13485 standards.
Actuators or electrodes integration: Our next-to-skin integrations of actuators and electrodes offers sense stimuli from the environment and also reacts to them. These include phase change materials, shape memory materials, and touch textile applications.
Our focus on aesthetics and form build
Smartwatches that fit the aesthetic needs of modern fashion centric consumer can better meet user expectations. Product creation is not just about function. Your product’s form needs to stand up to the sleek, modern aesthetic of today’s consumer style choices.
Our soft woven knit material with a combination of jacquard, tuck stitches and stitch transfer techniques help impact shape and function. The functional fit feels like a natural extension of the body for flexible stability and won’t interfere with the user’s movements or mobility.
As it stands now, a lack of visual and pricing variety is holding smartwatches back. Our product designers help start-ups with little to no visual branding to assess the marketplace and establish key visual elements to differentiate from competitors.
For businesses with well-defined visual branding, our team can seamlessly integrate new product designs with existing brand elements for a featherweight, formfitting and virtually seamless product.
We also offer varied surface modifications for soft circuitry devices from water repellency and other resistive properties to enhanced grip for performance application, and silicon flocking for elevated hand feel.
Despite the worldwide impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, global smartwatches and wristables shipments had continued to grow in 2020 as reported by Counterpoint. Their study indicates a rise of 1.5% in 2020 for smartwatches with price trends moving premium. As smartwatches continue to lean to the healthcare space at a time when remote health monitoring becomes increasingly important - younger and older people will only continue to become more health-conscious in a post-virus world.
It's critical to select a product development/engineering partner that will help you satisfy user-centric needs with still time to market in this heavily competitive industry. Do you want to make technology that prioritizes user-centered architecture and quality? Connect with us to get your wearable device production underway.
Softmatter is the wearable technology team of MAS Holdings (Private) Limited.
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