19 November 2012
Ultra small SoC cuts the cost of medical monitoring
Researchers in the US have developed a low cost, low power SoC for monitoring medical vital signs which they claim is so small it could fit on a postage stamp and so cheap it can be manufactured in high volumes for less than 50p.
The patent pending device, developed by a team from Oregon State University, is designed to measure important biomedical measurements such as temperature, pulse rate, brain signals and physical activity.
It is thought to have potential as a disposable electronic sensor for applications such as heart monitoring, weight management and disease onset. The researchers believe it could even be used as a lie detector.
"Current technology allows you to measure body signals using bulky, power consuming, costly instruments," said Patrick Chiang, associate professor at the university's School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. "What we've enabled is the integration of these large components onto a single microchip, achieving significant improvements in power consumption.
"We can now make important biomedical measurements more portable, routine, convenient and affordable than ever before."
Prof Chiang claims the SoC offers a tenfold reduction in size, weight, cost and power consumption compared to competing devices. Part of what enables the small size, he says, is that the system doesn't have a battery.
Instead, it harvests the sparse radio frequency energy from a nearby device – in this case, a mobile phone – meaning that the small smartphones carried by hundreds of millions of people around the world could now provide the energy for important biomedical monitoring at the same time.
"The entire field of wearable body monitors is pretty exciting," said Chaing. "By being able to dramatically reduce the size, weight and cost of these devices, it opens new possibilities in medical treatment, healthcare, disease prevention, weight management and other fields."