The wearable market is definitely heating up, despite some reports suggesting that it is slowing down somewhat. Just take a look at FitBit's recent reporting to understand it’s a popular industry segment. A wearable is a piece of personal technology that must work constantly, since it's continually worn and performing some function or another. And, as more and more companies get into producing their own offerings, the feature sets are blurring so that one glaring issue remains as a top consumer choice point: battery life. More consumers are moving from single-focus wearables to devices that perform many of the functions of smartphones. This comes at a significant cost to battery life.
Choosing a fitness wearable that merely counts steps, calories, and sleep is a nominal function set, with battery life lasting weeks. But, as more multi-function wearables are produced and sold, device battery becomes a big issue. The Apple Watch device was promoted as having all-day battery life, but those that use it constantly have found that Apple sort of rewrote what all-day actually means since constant use produces not much more than 5-8 hours before recharging is necessary. The Microsoft Band is a little better, regularly going almost 2 days without a charge after tracking sleep, steps, a couple exercise routines with and without GPS, and constant notifications from email, phone calls, and social networks. But, the Band is also bulkier and carries dual batteries.
Microsoft researchers believe they have an answer – at least temporarily. Microsoft Research has come up with a project called WearDrive. WearDrive is designed to offload process and energy-intensive tasks from the wearable and reroute them to a smartphone connected over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The idea is to save wearable energy by offloading demanding tasks. But, it comes at a cost and a tradeoff.
Though Microsoft Research says that the effect on the smartphone's battery is nominal, it does cause additional smartphone energy drain. Personally, I'm still waiting for a kinetic energy technology that recharges a wearable's battery through normal motion. Walk, track, charge. Sounds feasible.
Don't expect WearDrive to become available soon. Microsoft Research is still testing it with hopes that it will spur additional research projects by others around the WearDrive idea.