Small, light health patch with enhanced accuracy

April 9, 2014 by Hanne Degans

Holst Centre and IMEC have unveiled a prototype flexible health patch weighing just 10g – half the weight of current products. The patch uses real-time electrocardiogram (ECG), tissue-contact impedance and accelerometer information to accurately monitor physical activity. Thanks to advanced system in package (SiP) technology from ShinkoElectric Industries, the electronics module measures less than two by two centimeters. The high accuracy algorithms, low power consumption, and small size and weight make it ideal for consumer applications.

A growing public interest in healthy living is driving the emergence of activity monitors, with a number of devices already available that count the steps you take or the calories you burn. Heart rate is a key input in determining activity levels; hence monitors that can be worn comfortably on the chest offer the greatest accuracy. This increases the demand for small, lightweight monitors that can flex and move with your body.

IMEC and Holst Centre's novel makes such applications possible. The accurate patch combines ultra-low power electronics and flexible electrode technology, it includes a 1-lead ECG, a tissue-contact impedance sensor and a 3D accelerometer. Data is processed and analyzed locally, and relevant information is transmitted via Bluetooth Smart (BLS). The patch acquires, processes and communicates data on a minimal energy budget, allowing extended use with smaller batteries. Moreover, the Bluetooth Smart link provides a standardized communication channel to mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets.

Working with Shinko Electric Industries Co., LTD, researchers from IMEC used Shinko's SiP technology to integrate all this functionality into a module measuring just 17.4 mm x 17.4 mm. This represents a PCB area reduction of 52% compared to previous generations of the module. The module was then integrated into a flexible and stretchable patch designed by Holst Centre. The design combines system in foil technology with stretchable, integrated electrodes to create a lightweight patch that can be worn comfortably on the chest for extended periods. The module's small size and the flexibility of the patch reduce motion artifacts and thus provide more accurate and reliable monitoring.

"Our novel technology for packaging electronic devices uses a high-density organic substrate to reduce overall system size. Thanks to the experience we've gained in this joint initiative with IMEC and Holst Centre, Shinko can accelerate the development of next-generation body area network (BAN) products," said Tadashi Kodaira, corporate officer of Shinko.

"Comfortable, lightweight wearable systems for personal health monitoring are emerging, given their promise to better analyze patient's physiological parameters. We are excited about working with Shinko to successfully bring the technology closer to consumers' needs," said Chris Van Hoof, program director Wearable Healthcare at Holst Centre/IMEC.

The patch was developed in the framework of IMEC's and Holst Centre's Human++ program, addressing the need for better, more efficient healthcare monitoring systems. This first-of-a-kind demonstrator opens up new opportunities for companies in the wireless health and lifestyle segment. IMEC and Holst Centre are looking for partners interested in industrializing the concept.

Explore further: Imec achieves breakthrough in battery-less radios

Related Stories

Imec achieves breakthrough in battery-less radios

February 9, 2010

At today's International Solid State Circuit Conference, Imec and Holst Centre report a 2.4GHz/915MHz wake-up receiver which consumes only 51µW power. This record low power achievement opens the door to battery-less or energy-harvesting ...

Imec unveils innovative technology for an ECG patch

October 11, 2011

Imec and Holst Centre announce an innovative body patch that integrates an ultra-low power electrocardiogram (ECG) chip and a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) radio. This unique combination fuses power-efficient electronics and ...

Wireless low-power active-electrode EEG headset presented

October 5, 2012

Imec, Holst Centre and Panasonic have developed a new prototype of a wireless EEG (electroencephalogram) headset. The system combines ease-of-use with ultra-low power electronics. Continuous impedance monitoring and the use ...

Bluetooth Smart radio with record battery lifetime

December 3, 2013

Imec, Holst Centre and Wicentric introduce today their integrated ultra-low power Bluetooth Smart radio solution for a range of smart applications. With a power consumption up to five times lower than state-of-the-art radios ...

Recommended for you

The ethics of robot love

November 25, 2015

There was to have been a conference in Malaysia last week called Love and Sex with Robots but it was cancelled. Malaysian police branded it "illegal" and "ridiculous". "There is nothing scientific about sex with robots," ...

Nevada researchers trying to turn roadside weed into biofuel

November 26, 2015

Three decades ago, a University of Nevada researcher who obtained one of the first U.S. Energy Department grants to study the potential to turn plants into biofuels became convinced that a roadside weed—curly top gumweed—was ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.