Solving the Human Factors of Wearable Product Design

    Wearables are revolutionising the ways that humans expect to interact with wireless devices. With an ever-expanding range of ‘smart’ devices to choose from (including everything from watches and glasses to clothes), consumers are getting used to the idea that wireless connectivity and wearability can, and should, go hand in hand.

    While the public increasingly want their wireless devices to be seamlessly integrated into their daily life, product designers still have their work cut out for them. Wireless capability (integral to smart devices) can easily be threatened by the ‘human factor’ of design—it doesn’t matter how beautiful a smart device looks and feels if it’s then unable to wirelessly connect as and when the user requires.

    Here we’ll take a look at how wireless performance is affected by the key ‘human factors’ wearable product designers need to consider. Failing to consider these factors could result in a lengthy project producing a great-looking, but ultimately nonfunctioning device.

    Aesthetics and antennas

    The look, style, and fashion of wearables are all part of their purpose— if a wearable device doesn’t look like something people would want to wear, it’s not a wearable device! But time spent focusing on design features is wasted if they ultimately prove incompatible with wireless connectivity.

    Be attentive to how the materials you use may require specific antennas for wireless connectivity: perhaps the lightweight metal that provides your device's pleasing finish will detune the antenna frequency. In that case, incorporating the correct antenna technology into your design earlier on would avoid later frustration.

    External antennas can compromise the look and feel of a wearable, which turns designers off them. To successfully incorporate an embedded antenna, you will need to closely scrutinise your internal operating environment.

    Comfort through connectivity

    Wireless connectivity can’t simply be added on in the final stages of product design, without having a serious impact on the user experience of a device. Wearables often depend on ensuring the comfort of the user experience: they can’t overheat, drain battery power, they need to be dependable, and they may even need physical flexibility to accommodate their users’ movement. All these human factors can be ruined by oversights in wireless design, if they are not addressed in the early stages of the design process:

    1. If your wearable is in direct contact with the skin, make sure your antenna technology is suited for this and doesn’t draw unnecessary power.
    2. To guarantee the dependability of your wearable, look into how little energy you need your wireless transmitters and receivers to consume.
    3. If your wearable needs to move with the user, think about radiation patterns of any wireless solution you choose - maybe an omni-directional antenna would be more appropriate.

    The qualities you need from your antenna can vary drastically, depending on purpose, all of which leads to different specifications, sizes and costs: to avoid unwelcome design hiccups, think about what you need from your wireless connectivity early on, and don’t choose an antenna based on frequency alone!

    The human and wireless environment

    All wearable product designers are attentive to the environments and contexts that their products will need to be used in. But overlooking the impact that these contexts have on wireless performance can be disastrous for ultimate functionality.

    It’s always important to think about the kinds of wireless environments that your product will be operating in. With use of wearable products and all sorts of wireless devices on the up, bandwidths for wireless transmissions can become clogged. In the initial stages of design, think about what competing frequencies your wearable is likely to encounter. From there, your optimal bandwidths can be worked out along with antenna isolation required, all of which will feed into how you approach the 'human factors' of the wearable you are designing.

    Maintaining user privacy

    A sense of privacy is essential to the user experience of wearables. It is a human factor that is hugely dependent on wireless design:

    1. conspicuous antenna draw unwelcome attention to the user’s device.
    2. congested networks and bandwidths compromise the user’s ability to engage with their device on their own.
    3. all users want to feel confident that their information is being exchanged discretely and efficiently.

    Failure to address these aspects of wireless performance early on can compromise the ultimate user experience your wearable delivers. Focus on them early on: the wireless hardware required to ensure user privacy may well impact on the hardware your wearable can ultimately use.

    United wireless and human factors from the start

    In the world of wearables, wireless performance just can’t be considered as something added on to the user experience in the final stages. Your product’s wireless needs have to be taken into account alongside its aesthetic and user-focused qualities, if unforeseen demands for connectivity aren’t going to come up later to compromise the functionality of your wearable.

    Wireless connectivity is often the only means of enabling the use of wearables: failure to integrate wireless and human factors from the start can leave your device no more than a useless accessory. Get in touch with Antenova today to find out how their range of innovative wireless antennas can ensure that your wearables reach their maximum potential, with no need for compromise at any stage of the design process.

    Wireless Design in Compact Wearables cover.jpg
    Your guide to wireless integration for wearables
    Wearables need to provide all-day connectivity, but within a small form factor. Managing this trade-off between RF performance and ergonomics is critical.
    Get the guide