Updated on 25 February 2013
Communication flexibility, ranging from short range ultra-low power RFID to high-speed broadband Wi-Fi, has added more versatility to medical electronics. In the case of a smart contact lens developed to detect glaucoma, the sensor device is extremely miniaturized, and a tiny, dedicated processor transmits to a data logging device worn like a pendant around the neck of the patient. Ultra-low power short range RFID best suits this application.
The Triggerfish smart contact lens, developed by Sensimed, incorporates a MEMS sensor by STMicroelectronics to detect increased pressure in the eye which can lead to glaucoma. Communications with a data logging device is powered not by batteries but rather by a minute amount of power generated by received radio waves.
But in a device such as remote cardiac monitor that logs more data and needs long-term communication with a hospital, Bluetooth wireless technology in combination with mobile broadband would be the appropriate solution. There is the enormous and life-enhancing potential for any medical device to be connected today, just like any consumer electronics device.
A needs-driven market without cyclical volatility
Medical electronics is a "needs" driven market largely unaffected by the cyclical volatility that defines many other addressable markets for the semiconductor industry. The global medical electronics market was $3.6 billion in 2011 and is expected to grow another $1 billion in five years, according to iSuppli Application Market Forecast Tool 2012. Although not yet in the league of smartphones or tablets, medical electronics is nonetheless a small but fast-growing market worth addressing for the next five-to-ten years.