Updated on 20 December 2014
Mr Satish Premanathan chief architect and general manager, VLSI & System Design
Singapore: The healthcare industry is looking for new ways to manage resources as the demand for beds grows in tandem with ageing populations across Asia. Today's talk of the town is the wearables or devices that monitor physiological changes in the body when worn.
Analysts have already seen the potential for health-related wearables as Transparency Market Research reports that the market for wearable medical devices will be worth $5.8 billion worldwide by 2019. ABI Research has also predicted that over 100 million wearable wireless medical devices will be shipped annually by 2016.
While most have been designed for consumers' personal interests, new types of wearables can also allow doctors to monitor a patient's health remotely and continuously after he or she has been discharged from a hospital. This eases the crunch on healthcare resources without diminishing the patient care. These devices that work outside the hospitals are now more usable (small and lightweight) and consume less power. They are also more elegantly designed - no long wires needed, and attractively priced within the range of $200. Given these improvements, wearable devices are now being worn for longer periods.
Medicine has relied on devices to monitor the body for years, but these were traditionally wired, and were unable to store more than a few hours' worth of information. The use of discrete components made such wearable devices bulky and the power consumption of these devices were impractical as they required frequent re-charging. The confluence of advanced mobile technology, better connectivity and electronics is supporting the emergence of a new class of health-related wearables that are portable, accurate, and reliable. Regardless of what is being measured and monitored, key components of wearables usually include bio sensors, micro-controllers, memory to store data, power management functionalities to minimize energy consumption and a wireless interface to communicate to a mobile gateway.
Electronics manufacturers such as Intel, Toshiba, Broadcom, MediaTek, and India's Ineda Systems have already invested in creating specialized systems on chips for this purpose. The hardware is typically enclosed in a small package, characterised by long battery life, connectivity support for standards such as via bluetooth or wifi, location awareness, and very responsive sensors.