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28 June, 2015 - 15:39 By Kate Sweeney

The disruptive technology creating the next wave of hardware for wearables and IoT

FlexEnable jacket - wearable technology

Wearable technology and the internet of Things (IoT) are already shaping the future world we will inhabit and FlexEnable’s disruptive flexible electronics technology is set to play a major role in unlocking the full potential of both.

Wearable technology is transforming our digital lives. The market for a wide range of new wearable hardware is growing daily; for wearable sensors alone, IDTechEx predicts there will be three billion in use by 2025 – representing a huge amount of data. 

However, it is still unclear how to ensure sustained adoption of wearable technology. Recent research shows that a third of wearable technology owners abandoned their device after only six months of usage. 

Most of the reasons can be attributed to the constraints of traditional electronics. Whilst there are many factors that determine sustainable adoption of wearables, nine factors have been commonly identified. Hardware shouldn’t be hard to wear; it should be robust, yet have a perfect form factor and be comfortable for the user; it should provide a great user experience and be compatible with the user’s lifestyle; and furthermore it should of course have a fantastic design whilst providing a high-level of innovative utility. 

Flexible electronics is key to enabling these criteria to be fulfilled for wearables. Flexible displays and sensors are the key to provide sufficient utility to justify the necessary behaviour change of charging your wearable daily and drive sustainable adoption of these devices. 

The mobile phone provides a perfect case study for sustained behaviour change; daily phone charging is now a habit - just like brushing teeth - which users are happy to do because of the exceptional utility smartphones afford. 

FlexEnable has developed a flexible electronics platform combining stable, high performance organic thin film transistors (OTFT) with passive elements, the perfect toolkit of electronic components for wearables. 

FlexEnable’s process for the manufacture OTFTs on plastic sheets leads to backplanes as thin as a human hair (25 µm), flexible enough to bend around a matchstick (0.25 mm) and as light as a sheet of paper (100gsm) - all of which are exactly what’s needed for the design of wearable technology for people (wearables) and their everyday environment (everywhereables). 

The company’s low temperature process is compatible with existing manufacturing processes, enabling a cost breakthrough for ultra-thin, light, robust and conformable displays and sensors. 

For example, the manufacture of a TFT array directly on ultra-low cost plastics such as TAC (tri-acetyl cellulose) the same films commonly used as a base for polarisers and compensation layers in everyday LCDs, results in the lowest cost process for flexible displays of all mainstream types – including conformable organic liquid crystal displays (OLCD), flexible active matrix OLED displays and flexible electrophoretic displays. 

The company has also demonstrated a range of optical, biometric and gas sensors as well as programmable array logic circuits which can be programmed for different functions by digital printing. 

In the world of the IoT where ever more devices are connected, the ability to bring any and every surface to life with ubiquitous sensing is imperative, and FlexEnable’s technology platform enables the manufacture of thin and flexible sensors for both large and small areas.
FlexEnable OLED

An important step to facilitating the new hardware for wearables and IoT is having the correct supply chains in place. FlexEnable is working with materials, product and manufacturing companies to accelerate this, and offers rapid prototyping for flexible displays, sensors and new product concepts to help customers get started.

A suite of partnership offerings enables access to the FlexEnable technology and capabilities: MaterialsEnableTM, ProductEnableTM and FabEnableTM offer customers a range of possibilities according to their requirements. 

With a strong IP portfolio and a unique, scalable organic electronics manufacturing process, FlexEnable can rapidly accelerate customers’ route into plastic electronics and their achievement of a truly differentiated product offering. 

FlexEnable is the disruptive technology behind the next wave of hardware for wearables and IoT. 

• For more information visit www.flexenable.com or contact the company directly – info [at] flexenable.com 

Kiss Communications

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