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Elitac Wearables jargon buster

Your guide to the jargon-rich world of wearables

Unscrambling wearables jargon

Any business has its fair share of jargon. But because wearables development happens at the cross section of multiple disciplines – textiles, electronics, hardware, software, (industrial) design, research and commercial – our industry seems to have a larger share than most.

The Elitac Wearables jargon buster guide aims to clarify the most common technical terms, and help you make informed decisions about developing wearables. For any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


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3D modeling – A process of creating a three dimensional digital object or representation using specialized software.

3D printing | SLA | SLS | FDM – 3D printing is a method of creating an object in 3D layer-by-layer using a computer created design, also known as additive manufacturing. There are three main methods that can be used: Stereolithography Apparatus (SLA) uses fluids, Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) uses powder and Fused Deposition Material (FDM) uses Filament. In our Wearables Lab we have an SLA and FDM printer.


Accelerometer – A sensor or device that measures acceleration forces, i.e. the change in velocity, or speed divided by time. These forces may be static, like gravity, or dynamic, to sense movement or vibrations. It can be used for a wide range of applications, such as detecting motion, orientation, tilt, etc. We’ve used it for example in the BalanceBelt, where it measures the direction and degree to which the wearer is leaning.

Actuator – A component that can translate an electronic signal into kinetic energy in either a single linear or rotary motion.

AHRS (Attitude and Heading Reference System) – A type of motion sensor that measures a user’s orientation in reference to the world. It includes both an IMU and a CPU (Central Processing Unit). This allows it to calculate attitude and heading relative to magnetic north, in addition to roll, pitch, and yaw. Thanks to sensor fusion, reference vectors – gravity and the earth’s magnetic field – can compensate for drift from the gyroscopes. We’ve used an AHRS in the Mission Navigation Belt, for example.

Altimeter – A sensor or device that measures altitude, a location’s distance from sea level.


Bed of nails – An electronics test tool with numerous pins that quite literally looks like a ‘bed of nails’. These pins are aligned to make contact with test points on a PCB on one side. On the other side, they are connected to a measuring unit by wires. They allow electronics engineers to quickly test hundreds or even thousands of individual test points within a PCB at once. We use it for example to test and program the control modules in our wearables.

BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) – Compared to classic Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy is intended to provide considerably reduced power consumption and cost while maintaining a similar communication range.

Body coordinate system – In the context of designing a haptic feedback wearable, the function of the body surface coordinate system is to provide a unique identifier for each location on the body, or part of the body. Each location on the skin must have a unique identifier. This makes it possible to control the level and type haptic feedback vibrations extremely accurately.  For more information, please see our whitepaper on haptic interpolation.

Bootloader | bootstrap – A bootloader is a piece of software that is primarily used to upgrade/modify system software without the need for specialised firmware upgrade tools. They are mainly used to manage the application, but can have many other functions besides. Through various protocols such as UART, CAN, I2C, I2S, Ethernet, or USB, they can also establish communication and initial a firmware upgrade.


C | CPP | JAVA | Python – Software programming languages that we use at Elitac Wearables to program firmware en software.

CE Marking – The set of norms to which a device must comply so that it is legal to sell it on the European market.

Chip | Microchip | Integrated Circuit (IC) – A set of electronic circuits on a small piece of silicon. A chip houses a multitude of tiny electrical switches (transistors) that can turn currents on or off. Modern chips use silicium as a semiconductor and are produced in a complicated process with highly specialised machines. They are used in virtually all modern electronic equipment.

CI (Continuous Integration) – In continuous integration, all software developers’ working copies (code) are merged to a central repository multiple times each day.  This greatly reduces the risk of integration conflicts and failures.

Compiler – A computer program that converts computer code from one programming language (the source language) to another language (the target language).

Conductive textiles / yarns – Yarns that can conduct electricity. Different techniques and materials result in different mechanical and electrical properties. Often a coating of silver or copper is used.

Constellation – A set of related vibration tactors laid out in a specific shape to optimise the haptic sensations.


Debugging – In computer programming and software development, debugging is the process of finding and resolving bugs (defects or problems that prevent correct operation) within computer programs, software, or systems.


E-textiles – Conductive textiles that can sometimes also sense and or react to electronic stimuli.

Electro-active textiles – Textiles that can move or change shape when a current is applied and vice-versa. See for example Project WEAFING.

EMC testing (Radiated Emission and Immunity) or Electro-Magnetic Compatibility testing – Electronic devices must undergo Radiated Emission tests to check that they don’t disturb other devices by emitting excessive electro-magnetic radiation. Immunity tests, on the other hand, check the immunity of a device to EM-radiation present in the outside world, from other EM sources. This ensures that devices remain functional when exposed to a pre-defined level of EM radiation. We run both Radiated Emission and Immunity tests on our wearables.

Emission testing – See EMC testing.


Filament – A filament is a coil of plastic that easily melts in the nozzle of overmoulding equipment, for example PLA.

Final Prototype (at Elitac Wearables) – Custom design of the wearable concept, fulfilling the majority of the specifications, and ready to be pre-validated and tested. For more information about the various stages of the wearables development process, please see: Wearables development process.

Firmware – Better known as ‘software for hardware’, firmware is a program that comes embedded in a specific piece of hardware.

FOT (First Out of Tools) – When injection moulding, the FOT is the first series created with the mould. Often, some fine-tuning of the mould will take place based on the evaluation of the FOT, such as tolerances, fitting, texture finish, etc.

Flexible electronics – Electronics mounted on flexible printed circuit boards which have a certain degree of freedom to bend.

Fusion360 – The CAD program we use to model 3D objects like enclosures or moulds, make 2D drawings and simulate real-life items.


Gait sensor – A sensor that monitors a person’s way of moving. The sensor translates movement into data. See for example our GaitKeeper research project. Gait refers to the pattern of movement of the limbs. Depending of the type of limb and movement, different parameters can be measured. This can be done done with cameras, or gait sensors, which often make use of an IMU.

Golden sample – The first, best and validated version of a product that is being produced; all other products that follow can be compared to this Golden Sample to see it still matches defined tolerances.


Haptic feedback – Haptic feedback involves using the sense of touch to communicate information. For more information about benefits and applications, please see Haptic feedback wearables.

Haptic interpolation – Haptic interpolation refers to the perception of a vibration (or a ‘virtual vibration’) at a location on the skin between two or more neighbouring vibration actuators. The concept allows haptic sensations to be generated anywhere on a patch of skin that is covered by a set of haptic vibration actuators – not only underneath or at the location of an actuator. For more information about this very useful concept for haptic feedback wearables designers, please refer to our whitepaper.

Hard fault – In software programming, exception mechanisms tell a system how to handle events that are unexpected or not part of normal system operation. This is especially important in embedded systems such as wearables, because software in these systems cannot easily be fixed or replaced, and must deal with the unpredictability of the real world. A HardFault indicates all classes of faults that can’t be handled by any of the programmed exception mechanisms. As a consequence, a HardFault usually involves unrecoverable system failures.

Hydrophobic – Materials that naturally repel water, causing droplets to form.


Immunity testing – See EMC testing

IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) – A type of motion sensor that measures an object’s orientation in reference to its initial position. It combines 3 gyroscopes, 3 accelerometers, and 3 magnetometers in 1 sensor.

Integration techniques – In the context of wearables, integration refers to the various methods that can be used to integrated textiles and electronics. Examples include printing, laminating, smart textiles, conductive yarns, wired. For more information, please refer to Wearables integration techniques.

IPXX (International Protection Rating, or Ingress Protection) – An international classification system that indicates the extent to which an electrical appliance is protected from foreign objects (tools, dust, fingers) or moisture entering the inside. The IP value always consists of two digits: The first one refers to the protection against solid objects or materials, and the second one refers to the degree of waterproofness. Obviously, in the case of wearables, the second digit will determine washability to a large extent.


Lamination | bonding – The joining together of two or more materials (textiles) by applying one or more layers of bonding material (e.g. glue) and often heat and pressure. Used to combine properties of multiple materials into one.

Latency – Throughput time, time required for a signal to go pass trough its system


MDR (Medical Device Regulation) – The set of norms to which a device must comply in order to be sold as a medical grade device.

Microprocessor – A computer processor where the data processing logic and control is included on a single integrated circuit (see also “SoC” and chip).


OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) – An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) makes systems or components that are used in another company’s end product.

Overmoulding – Pouring a specific type of plastic with low pressure (4-6 bar) over a piece of electronics or a complete PCBA to make it watertight and protected against external factors. Can also be used to create a grommet or strain relief around cables and act as a water seal between cable and enclosure. We specialise in overmoulding electronics onto textiles, essentially integrating hardware and electronics in a single production method.


PCB (Printed Circuit Board) – A board that connects electronic components via conductive traces, pads, etc. It can be single-sided, double-sided or multi-layer, with the latter one allowing for more components and design complexity.

PCBA (Printed Circuit Board Assembly) – The complete assembly of PCBs with all required components and parts soldered and installed – ready to fulfil the electronic application it was designed for.

Piezoelectric effect – A process that generates an electric charge in response to applied mechanical stress or vice-versa. A piezoelectric motor vibrates by applying an electrical potential to it.

Pill tactor – A haptic feedback actuator in the form of a pill.

Pilot Samples (at Elitac Wearables) – Variations of the Proof of Concept to better define its features. It allows us to test and compare different options, set-ups, configurations and shapes. etc.). For more information about the various stages of the wearables development process, please see: Wearables development process.

Printed electronics – Printed electronics is a set of printing methods used to create electrical devices on various substrates (plastics).

Proof of Concept (POC) – A fast, rough, functional model of the concept wearable, often made with off-the-shelf components. Depending on the project, the similarities with the final product can differ, but often the key functionalities are similar. The POC is used to verify the client’s ideas and refine the concept before diving into details.


Resin – Resin is a liquid synthetic organic polymer that is used as the basis of plastics, adhesives, etc. We use resin in our SLA 3D printer, where the UV laser creates solid layers to build up a product.


Section view | Section analysis – A section view or section analysis is a feature in our 3D program that allows us to see what is happening inside of a product. For example, to check the fit of hardware inside an enclosure, or to check the wall thickness. It is literally slicing a product in half.

Sensor – A component that can sense a specific type of information and translate that information into an electronic signal.

Simulation – A way of predicting and visualising how an actual process will react or unfold, with the help of a software program. We can simulate electrical circuits, for example, or simulate how a product or part will be produced, or how reacts to external factors (force test, drop test, etc.).

Smart textiles | Intelligent textiles – Textiles with integrated battery-powered electronics that provide haptic feedback or sensor information about for example navigation direction, balance, obstacle detection, heart rate, acceleration, heading, etc. Or, “[…] intelligent textile structures or fabrics that can sense and react to environmental stimuli, which may be mechanical, thermal, chemical, biological, and magnetic amongst others” (Tao 2001). See also e-textiles, electro-active textiles and conductive textiles.

Software – A collection of instructions and data that tell a computer how to work. In contrast, hardware refers to the components from which the system is built, and which carry out the work.

Sprint – Fixed period of time in which specified development steps are undertaken. Part of the scrum methodology.

Stack – A set of software components (e.g. installable files, product definitions, patches) that work in tandem to achieve a common goal, with no additional software required to support applications. The various components work in tandem to efficiently deliver application services to end users.

SoC (System on Chip – An integrated circuit (see also chip) that integrates all or most components of an electronic system on a single substrate or microchip. Components may  include a central processing unit (CPU), memory, input/output ports and secondary storage, etc. With all these components on a single substrate, SoCs use less power and take up less space than their multi-chip counterparts.


TacOS – TacOS is the Operating System we have developed in-house. It is custom-made for wearables and allows for faster, cheaper and smaller (microchip size) product development.

Tactile display | Haptic display – A set of tactors arranged and used in such a way that they can transfer information to an end-user.

Tactor – A vibration element.

Technical drawing (2D) – A precise and detailed drawing of an object. This is used in the engineering of products to verify the dimensions during production.

Toolchain – A set of programming tools that is used to perform a software development task or to create a software product


Wearable – Smart electronic devices that are worn close to or on the skin. At Elitac Wearables, we specialise in medical wearables (improving quality of life or quality of care) and safety wearables (keeping people safer).

What is involved in developing successful wearables?

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