Updated on 25 February 2013
Semiconductors have been used in medical equipment for over four decades but, until recently, this use represented only a small part of the medical electronics sector, mainly dedicated to equipment solely for use in hospitals and clinics. Thanks to the ever-increasing pervasion of microelectronics technology, in many parts of the world, the traditional medical electronics market is evolving towards a broader, fast-growing health and wellness market, in which people can exercise more responsibility for their personal health and fitness.
The sleep apnoea breathing management device by ResMed is a great example of technology that is life enhancing. What was once a washing machine-sized behemoth has evolved, with the benefit of silicon technology, into an easy-to-use portable bedside unit.
Sense, power and connectivity
The silicon technologies that have been driving the latest evolutions in smartphones, tablets, and video games are the same ones that will drive consumer healthcare and wellness.
Many of the new wave "consumer" health and wellness products are based on a key set of silicon building blocks, mainly MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) sensors or actuators, low-power microcontrollers, and wireless transceivers. MEMS sensors and actuators cover the "smart" function of most devices - sensing or movement. Low-power MCUs allow portability by controlling the devices using very low power, while wireless transceivers allow them to be connected.
STMicroelectronics is uniquely positioned in this nexus of technologies and is a leader in all three areas, MEMS, MCUs, and wireless transceivers. In collaboration with partners in the healthcare and wellness industries, ST has adapted and optimized its proven technologies for smart phones, consumer electronics and IT gadgets into the building blocks for medical and fitness related applications.