An innovative body patch that incorporates an ultra-low-power electrocardiogram (ECG) chip and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) radio was introduced at the imec Technology Forum on 10 October. The combination of power-efficient electronics and standardised communication opens new perspectives for long-term healthcare monitoring, imec told journalists gathered at the campus of the nanoelectronics centre in Leuven, Belgium. The system, which was developed by imec and Holst Centre’s Human++ R&D programme, is integrated into the ePatch platform from Delta.
The ECG patch can measure up to three lead ECG signals and it includes a 3-D accelerometer to monitor physical activity. The data are processed and analysed locally, and relevant events and information are transmitted via BLE, which is currently available on the iPhone 4S and will start showing up on other smartphones, tablets and laptops imminently.
BLE is an absolute miser when it comes to power consumption. When computing and transmitting the heart rate, for example, the entire system consumes a mere 280 µA at 2.1 V. It can run continuously for one month on a 200-mAh Li-Po battery. When transmitting accelerometer data (at 32 Hz) on top of the heart rate, the power consumption still remains below 1 mA in continuous operation, and the device can run for about one week. Moreover, the BLE link adds a standardised plug-and-play communication gateway to mobile devices.Norbert Sparrow