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How to Build a Better App for Wearable Products

When developing an app for wearable products, you need to begin by identifying the app's purpose and goals.

Rob Spiegel

September 21, 2023

4 Min Read
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Yagi Studio for Stone via Getty Images

Planning is a major stage in the development of apps for wearables. Whether it’s smartwatches or fitness trackers, app development requires meticulous design. Planning becomes the cornerstone of success. It’s also crucial to design an interface that's intuitive and tailored to the wearable's compact screen size.

We caught up with Semir Haddad, chief product and strategy officer at MicroEJ to offer his experience in successfully developing apps for wearables. MicroEJ is a leading developer of software containers for IoT devices. In the following Q&A, Haddad shares how the process involves a delicate interplay of factors to ensure a seamless user experience and optimal functionality.

Design News: Could you provide insights into the process of planning an app for wearable products?

Semir Haddad: When it comes to planning an app for wearable products, it's crucial to start by identifying the app's purpose and goals. Whether it's centered around health monitoring, notifications, or fitness tracking, having a clear vision is essential. Additionally, the user interface plays a critical role. Designing an interface that's intuitive and tailored to the wearable's compact screen size is key. This involves ensuring simplicity, easy navigation, and implementing touch and gesture interactions for a seamless user experience.

DN: What strategies would you recommend for a sustainable approach in wearable app development?

Semir Haddad: Sustainability is indeed a vital consideration. One primary strategy should be to focus on providing an extremely compact runtime that significantly reduces hardware requirements to enable an app to function seamlessly on both large and small processors alike. Optimizing processor size not only reduces processing demands but also conserves battery life. Another consideration is to write highly efficient code and optimize memory allocation automatically as much as possible. Finally, it's prudent to be selective with push notifications and offer offline functionality. This empowers users to customize notifications and ensures the app remains functional even without an active internet connection.

DN: What is involved in addressing battery life effectively?

Semir Haddad: I think addressing battery life requires a multi-faceted approach. Firstly, optimizing the codebase plays a significant role in reducing CPU usage and power consumption. Transitioning from power-intensive operating systems to optimized software solutions is advisable. The deployment of a software container can provide this type of energy efficiency. Carefully managing background processes is also critical. It's advisable to utilize low-power sleep modes during periods of inactivity. Adjusting screen brightness based on ambient lighting conditions and implementing energy-efficient data transmission protocols can further extend battery life. Finally, granting users the ability to customize settings that impact battery consumption gives them more control over the longevity of their devices.

DN: Could you elaborate on the role of Real-Time Operating Systems (RTOS) low-power hardware in the context of wearable apps?

Semir Haddad: Absolutely. The role of RTOS-based low-power hardware is pivotal for wearables. These components are meticulously designed to operate with minimal resource consumption, resulting in significantly reduced energy usage and extended battery life. This remarkable capability allows wearables to function for extended periods without the need for frequent recharging. Often, the switch from a power-hungry processor to a more efficient one can transform a wearable's battery autonomy from just 24 hours to well over a week, greatly enhancing the user experience and the overall appeal of the product.  In certain scenarios, incorporating low-power RTOS hardware into an existing high-performance design within a "big-little" architecture enables the implementation of a robust ambient mode, significantly extending the battery life while retaining the full breadth of the user experience.

DN: How can patient monitoring be seamlessly integrated into wearable devices?

Semir Haddad: Integrating patient monitoring into wearables involves incorporating a range of sensors such as heart rate monitors, accelerometers, and temperature sensors. These sensors enable the continuous collection of health data, which can then be transmitted to the app for analysis. Alerts for abnormal readings, complemented by insightful data visualization, empower both users and healthcare professionals to make informed decisions regarding their health. Several health and fitness companies license advanced algorithms to enhance disease detection and anomaly detection. These algorithms can be seamlessly integrated into flexible wearable frameworks such as the one MicroEJ offers.

DN: In terms of design, how can wearable apps encompass overall wellness and patient home care?

Semir Haddad: Designing wearable apps with a focus on overall wellness and patient home care involves several aspects. By tracking metrics such as steps, heart rate, sleep patterns, and stress levels, wearables can actively promote a user’s well-being. Incorporating features like medication reminders and remote monitoring capabilities enables the user to manage their health from the comfort of their homes.  Additionally, advanced algorithms enable the detection of medical conditions at their inception, ensuring timely management by the medical team. This holistic approach ensures that wearable apps become indispensable companions in the healthcare journey of the user.

Semir Haddad is the chief product officer at MicroEJ and is in charge of the company’s product strategy and ecosystem. MicroEJ stands as a leader in the realm of software containers for IoT devices, including wearables, empowering device manufacturers of all scales to accelerate their product design.

About the Author(s)

Rob Spiegel

Rob Spiegel has served as senior editor at Electronic News and Ecommerce Business, covering the electronics industry and Internet technology. He has served as a contributing editor at Automation World and Supply Chain Management Review. Rob has contributed to Design News for 10 years.

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