Bio-sensor can handle a range of physiological insights

Wearable bio-sensors may be a step closer to mainstream use after a consortium of companies unveiled an ultra-low-power processor that can handle a range of physiological signals.

According to its designers, the device consumes 13 picojoules of energy per cycle when running an electrocardiogram (ECG) algorithm at a frequency of 1MHz and operating voltage of 0.4V.  

The device, labelled CoolBio, is the result of an industrial collaboration between Imec, NXP and Holst Centre.

Wireless sensors that continuously monitor parameters such as heart, muscle and brain activity promise to offer low-cost and time-efficient healthcare. In theory, they allow people to be monitored and followed up at home in their daily life activities.

However, a major challenge in developing such devices is to bring overall power consumption down to a level where the system can be powered by energy harvesting or a microbattery that runs for months.

‘With this key research focus on low-power circuit techniques, we succeeded in designing… a biomedical processor suitable for future biomedical products offering an optimised balance between performance and power consumption,’ said Harmke De Groot, programme director at Imec.

The company achieved this by processing and compressing data locally on the node, thereby limiting power-hungry transmission of data over the wireless link.  

The programmable device is voltage and performance scalable, supporting a frequency range of 1MHz up to 100MHz with an operating voltage from 0.4 to 1.2V.