Many companies are working on a set of biomedical sensors with wireless communications capabilities for sensing body temperature, heart rates, breath rates, intraocular pressure, CO2 concentration, and several other constants and parameters to individuate disease attack preludes. These projects are focused on real-time patient monitoring, so the system can automatically send alarms to a remote healthcare center, family members, or even the patient's mobile phone to advise a rescuer about mitigating actions.
The idea of integrating much of the functionality of a system-on-chip (SoC) has been around for some time. Nowadays it's very interesting for real-time medical monitoring. Some companies, including mine (STMicroelectronics), are working on integrated systems that incorporate many sensors to measure parameters that are useful in revealing a disease or dangerous condition in a patient.
In a blog post on Medical Packaging Innovation (a sister site), Adele Graham-King tells us that breath-acetone is an indicator of glycemic control in diabetics. Acetone concentration can be measured by means of some integrated silicon-based gas sensors. The sensors can communicate with a smart device via Bluetooth or more generally in a wireless mode.
The receiving device can also store the data coming from the patient and communicate with a medical center, which can manage emergency situations, for example. The sensors can be placed in a macro package that is applied directly on the patient's body. The basic idea is to ensure a low bit error rate in the communication and to secure the data stored in the device to make sure that only authorized personnel can access it.
The gas sensors are not the only silicon-based devices being engineered for these types of applications. For example, MEMS sensors can convert a pressure reading into an electrical signal. This can then be conditioned (to reject the noise), amplified, and converted into digital form. These systems basically present a piezoelectric effect in the direction of the mechanical stress, as showed in Figure 1.
(Source: MEMS CENTRAL)
MEMS sensors can be utilized to measure a patient's blood pressure and heart rate. Such an integrated system is based on the Internet of Things approach: an SoC containing silicon-based gas and pressure sensors and a communications section. These can communicate with a smart device able to store and process the data coming from the patient and to send alarm messages as needed. This will produce truly real-time patient monitoring.
In the next part of this series, we will see what else these integrated devices could do as part of a diagnostic SoC.
- The Future of Medicine Is Here
- Smart Grid Needs Smart Meter SoC, Part 1
- Smart Grid Needs Smart Meter SoC, Part 2
- Intelligent Gas Meter Detects Wide Variety of Conditions
- Medical Electronics: Put All the Functionality in the IC
- Medical ASICs: What’s Next in Silicon Integration?
- Batteries Can Be Printed Using 3D Technology