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wearables OS (wearables operating system)

A wearable OS is an operating system designed or refactored to satisfy the requirements of wearable computers, which can be significantly from one type of device to another and also different from the requirements of both desktop and mobile devices.

Wearable computers include smartwatches, smart rings, embedded clothing, fitness and health monitors in various form factors and headsets, such as Google Glass and Microsoft’s HoloLens.

In addition to the multiplicity of devices and the diversity of their physical sizes, there are two main operational modes: Some wearable devices operate in standalone mode, while others use a wireless connection to an Internet-connected device, typically a smartphone.

Most smartwatches, for example, connect to the user’s smartphone to enable their Web interface. In that case, the wearable OS is essentially a mobile operating system adapted to allow the watch to serve as a user interface.  The watch itself is effectively a wireless Bluetooth adaptor that extends smartphone capabilities to the watch, allowing the user to answer and initiate phone calls, read and dictate email and text messages, get weather reports or sports scores, listen to music or ask a digital assistant a question. 

A standalone smartwatch, on the other hand, is typically dedicated to a particular purpose, such as GSP navigation or healthcare-related data monitoring, recording and transmitting.

Wearable operating systems include Android Wear, Tizen for Wearables, Google Fit, Apple's watchOS and MediaTek’s LinkIt.

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This was last updated in October 2015

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