Author: Srinivas Pattamatta
Over the past decade, the IoT has helped to reshape the healthcare industry. Wearable medical devices have given patients and the medical staff taking care of them an easy way to monitor their vitals and detect issues before they become serious problems. One emerging use case for wearable medical devices is continuous glucose monitoring, a relatively pain-free way to track the real-time effects of food and exercise on one’s blood glucose levels.
A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a compact medical system that continuously monitors one’s blood sugar levels in real time. To use a CGM, one inserts a sensor just under the skin that includes a tiny cannula. This sensor measures glucose readings in interstitial fluid (the fluid that surrounds cells in the body) continuously day and night. A transmitter that is wirelessly (e.g. Bluetooth) attached to the sensor sends glucose levels to a display device – say a mobile phone – which shows the user their blood sugar levels and can send an alert when these levels are too high or low. One problem with traditional CGM solutions is that the transmitter, pump and charger batteries need to be charged regularly since they are in constant use.
Atmosic’s ultra-low-power wireless technology solutions can help solve this problem. Atmosic’s M2 and M3 system-on-chips (SoCs) use our Controlled Energy Harvesting (M3 only), Lowest Power Radio and On-demand Wake-Up technologies to enable forever battery life, eliminating the need for battery replacement for a significantly longer period of time. This means that Atmosic-powered CGMs won’t need to be charged, and the batteries won’t need to be replaced, for the lifetime of the device. Plus, companies could even design CGMs that don’t require batteries at all, relying on Atmosic’s technology to harvest power from RF, light or heat energy sources. CGMs with forever battery life, or CGMs that run without any batteries, would be much more convenient for people to use so they don’t have to worry about their medical device running low on batteries and perhaps miss out on critical health information being captured and communicated. Furthermore, battery waste has a significant impact on the environment, so solutions that enable batteries to run for years without being replaced, or that don’t require any batteries, are much more environmentally friendly.
Another exciting benefit of using Atmosic’s solutions for CGMs is the possibility for remote monitoring. Today, the sensors and transmitters in most CGMs must be within six feet of the receiver to transmit data. Atmosic’s low-power energy harvesting technology uses Bluetooth 5, which increases connected devices’ range by four times the range of previous Bluetooth generations. This increased range can be especially helpful for doctors to monitor their patients, or parents to monitor their children, anytime, anywhere via a browser or smartphone application.
At a time when the healthcare industry is facing staffing shortages, increasing efficiency while maintaining patient care has become a global priority. Forever battery or battery-free CGM solutions with Atmosic’s cutting-edge technologies promise to help people around the world monitor their health while enjoying the convenience of a device that always works, without worrying about charging or replacing batteries. Atmosic is committed to continuing innovation in this field to drive the battery-free IoT revolution in the healthcare industry and beyond.
As managed environments turn to wearables to help keep people safe, extended battery life and battery-free solutions will be critical for device fleets
In April, Apple and Google made headlines when they announced a partnership to make it easier for governments and health agencies to roll out COVID-19 exposure notifications systems. These applications will work by using Bluetooth® to exchange anonymous identifiers with other smartphones that are less than six feet away. If someone becomes infected, health officials can notify people who recently came into close contact with that person, while still maintaining everyone’s privacy.
But smartphones are just one platform that will be used for Bluetooth-based exposure notification systems designed to help mitigate the spread of the virus. Atmosic believes wearables – like wrist bands, beacons and sensors – will also be essential in the fight against COVID-19 when used in conjunction with mask-wearing and testing.
Not Everyone Has a Smartphone or Constant Access to One
Although smartphones have become a pivotal part of modern life, it’s important to remember that many people still don’t own a personal smartphone. Young children might enjoy playing games on their parents’ smartphones, but many parents will understandably wait until their child has reached a certain age and maturity level before giving them a smartphone. Senior citizens are another group whose level of smartphone ownership is lower than the rest of the population. Plus, even if someone has a phone, they might not have constant access to it. For example, workers in a food production plant might own smartphones, but they might not be able to use them during work hours for safety reasons.
So how can people without constant access to a smartphone stay informed about their potential exposure to the virus? Wearables are an easy solution. Wearables are relatively low-cost, lightweight and comfortable for all-day wear, making them an ideal choice whether a child is going to school or an adult wants to go about their daily activities without carrying around a smartphone.
Managed environments will be one of the biggest use cases for wearable-based exposure notification systems. A managed environment is simply a location that a company or another entity, like the government, oversees. We anticipate that exposure notification systems will be particularly popular in the following types of managed environments:
- Shipping warehouses and factories
- Corporate campuses
- Healthcare facilities
- Cruise ships
- Amusement parks and stadiums
There are a number of reasons why companies will rely on wearables to help keep their employees and customers safe. One reason is that smartphones and other personal devices are often not allowed in industrial environments. Beyond that, many companies will require customized exposure notification systems that go beyond the parameters set by the applications run by health and government authorities. For example, a facility might want wearables that log a contact event whenever employees come within 12 feet of each other, which is double the distance of current exposure notification systems.
Companies might also want to use wearables that can track other types of valuable information, such as temperature. If an employee’s temperature goes beyond a certain threshold, companies could mandate that they go to an onsite health clinic for further evaluation. Wearables might also be designed to withstand certain conditions, like high temperatures, and be tamper and tear resistant for continuous wear. Additionally, different types of managed environments will require different levels of privacy protections. For example, users’ location data might be kept private for use in corporate campuses, while factories might want to know exactly where its employees are on the factory floor at any given time to ensure the health and safety of all their workers.
With Bluetooth 5.0, wearables can now exchange information over longer distances (~100 meters). This provides a wide range of flexible deployment options. For example, a managed environment might program wearables to share information with smartphones monitored by management located close by, while data gathering readers or hubs might be placed far away.
Long battery life will be key for managed environments deploying wearables for long term wear. In most cases, the managing entity is not set up to change batteries every few weeks, plus the labor resources needed to change batteries can quickly drive up costs. Adding lots of batteries to wearables will make these solutions bulky and hamper their usability, so solutions with low power consumption will be preferred.
Where Atmosic Comes In
Atmosic’s M2 and M3 system-on-chip (SoC) solutions integrate the company’s groundbreaking Lowest Power Radio and On-demand Wake-Up technologies. The Atmosic M3 Battery-Free Bluetooth 5 SoC also integrates cutting-edge Managed Energy Harvesting technologies for forever battery life and can even replace the need for batteries entirely. Atmosic’s technologies are based on the long range (~100m) Bluetooth 5.0 protocol, so the M2 and M3 will work well with wearables based on Apple and Google’s framework, in addition to working with customized exposure notification systems.
Thanks to Atmosic’s power-efficiency innovations, our solutions can enable at least double the battery life – or extend battery life far beyond that, in many cases – of competitive solutions embedded in wearables with coin cell batteries. Depending on the size of a coin cell battery, it is possible that a basic wearable with an Atmosic SoC could last multiple years.
In the future, wearables with Atmosic’s technology will also take advantage of energy harvesting to further extend battery life and, in many cases, eliminate the need for batteries entirely. Energy harvesting technology helps to reduce the size of batteries in a device and enables sleeker form factors for wearables. For example, we could envision a monitoring device placed in a mask in the near future.
We are already seeing that many wearables manufacturers are looking to bring to market wearables designed for exposure notification systems in a wide variety of environments and use cases. At the most basic level they will be notification devices, or they could have temperature sensing for additional monitoring capabilities. We anticipate that this space will see rapid growth in the coming months as companies rush to bring these wearables to market and ramp up efforts to help stop the spread of the virus.
Redefining Battery Life at Wireless Congress: Systems & Applications
By Srinivas Pattamatta, Vice President of Business Development of Atmosic
Wireless technologies are always advancing and expanding their reach in our current world. Platforms such as Bluetooth 5.0 (BLE) enables wider ranges of connectivity at lower power thresholds and battery-free wireless solutions are becoming more accessible and easier to use. This past month, I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at Wireless Congress: Systems & Applications in Munich. I was able to discuss some of the major challenges industry leaders and wireless professionals face when implementing energy-efficient Internet of Things (IoT) devices within an array of industries including healthcare, smart homes and smart cities.
Healthcare automation is one of the largest drivers in the medical industry from applications such as hospital asset tracking and indoor locationing to patient health monitoring and tracking. The IoT has amazing potential to help improve healthcare for both patients and medical professionals alike. Historically, it has been a challenge for the healthcare industry to ensure that the data communication not only works with existing infrastructures, but is wirelessly powered. However, with current technologies, the cost of manually replacing batteries and losing equipment can be life-threatening – not to mention time-consuming for healthcare professionals to manage. Forever battery/battery-free solutions have the potential to change the healthcare industry for the better, strengthening the lifetime of the connected devices.
As mentioned in my talk, Atmosic set out to solve these challenges. By redefining battery life, our team launched the M2 and M3 Series solutions based on the Bluetooth® 5 standard and enhanced with our Lowest Power Radio and On-demand Wake Up to deliver 10 to 100 times lower power. The M3 solution leverages Controlled Energy Harvesting that is capable of harvesting energy from multiple power sources – RF, photovoltaic, mechanical, and thermal – enabling battery-free operation for IoT devices. With the BLE 5.0 platform, controlled energy harvesting can be supported over a long-range – about 100m – allowing hosts to connect the energy source at distance.
There is enormous potential in leveraging multiple energy harvesting sources to power the IoT. Above we talked about the healthcare industry and our M2 / M3 solution, let’s explore others.
- RF energy sources: Can harvest a wide frequency range including 915 MHz & 2.4Ghz generating up to 10s of mW of energy. The independent RF and Bluetooth links mean the RF source can be separated. This is ideal for applications such as badges, tags, locationing, electronic shelf labels, HIDs, and home and building automation.
- Photo/light energy sources: Using photo/solar panels which can range in size from 1cm2 when closer to the source and about 6inch2 when 10 feet or about 200lux from the source. This is ideal for outdoor and indoor applications such as badges, tags, locationing, electronic shelf labels, HIDs, and home and building automation.
- Motion energy sources: Great for continuous or occasional use. This energy sources will need to be close to the application such as a single click providing energy for BLE beacons. Applications that work best here are for wearables, tracking and home automation.
- Thermal energy sources: Harvesting thermal gradients with changes in temperature that creates the energy needed to power devices. The thermos-electronic generator, partnership with Matrix Industries, can generate ~10s of mWs of energy. Applications that are ideal for thermal energy harvesting are wearables, tracking, farming, and home and building automation.
Wireless Congress: Systems & Applications was a great opportunity to find out more about the latest developments and trends in wireless communication and where Atmosic fits within that ecosystem. It was great to observe presentations on system integration and practical applications, as well as real-world examples from the fields of IoT, automation and LPWAN. Across the board, it was a great show. It is clearer than ever that now is the time to RE-VOLT and bring a battery-free IoT to devices.
The age of the smart home is here. Recently, Bluetooth released its Market Update announcing that a whopping 1.15 billion annual shipments of Bluetooth smart home devices are expected by 2023. Gone are the days of wondering what it might be like to control lighting with a voice command, or automatically regulate a home’s temperature. Smart home technology has reached a point where it has become widely accepted and widely accessible – with data to back it up.
Voice Assistants are one of the most familiar smart home devices to many consumers, both for entertainment and performing some level of home automation, but there are many other emerging technologies that make up the smart home. At Atmosic, we categorize smart home technology into three different sectors: home entertainment – such as remotes, voice assistants, audio systems; home utilities – like connected refrigerators or washing machines and home automation – including security systems, sprinklers, thermostats, and so on. Each category is inclusive of a number of connected devices that require an increasing number of batteries.
Why does this matter? As the number of wireless devices grows, the number of batteries grow. As the number of batteries grow, we’re seeing major increases in the financial and environmental costs of replacing them. Why aren’t batteries lasting longer? Let’s go one step deeper…
Most IoT devices are wireless, meaning they must connect to the Internet via a source like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth® or ZigBee®. Wi-Fi® is best suited for high throughput apps and streaming data to connected devices. ZigBee works well too, but it requires a hub that connects devices to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, thus it’s a two-step connection. Then, of course, there’s Bluetooth, which has advanced to BLE or Bluetooth 5, with long, Wi-Fi-like range in the home and compatibility with smart phones, laptops and other devices.
These sources are important as we look to examples within the emerging smart home categories. Take a home security device for example. There are now portable sensors in these devices that run off batteries and connect to security systems via Bluetooth. Because the sensors are constantly sensing and connecting, the battery quickly runs out or the device requires a larger or more batteries to avoid draining. This means continuous monitoring for the battery replacement and a much higher opportunity cost for a dead battery in a security device.
This scenario can be applied across any connected in-home device: automated door locks, automated sprinkler systems, temperature sensors, and a multitude of other such applications. Many of them are battery powered and US regulation does not allow use of rechargeable batteries in many of them. Once again, we’re faced with the challenge of replacing a battery very frequently.
Now imagine a world where you can extend the life of a device by extending battery replacement from “every few months” to “every few years” to “the entire life of the device.” Atmosic’s M2 and M3 Series technologies can leverage many sources of power – RF, thermal, light and mechanical – to harvest energy for the growing number of connected devices. This extends battery life significantly or eliminates the need of batteries altogether, and greatly reduces the huge financial and environmental impact that comes with constantly replacing batteries. Arguably most importantly, the fear of a device monitoring security or locks in the home will not face the challenge of going dark due to battery drainage.
The age of the smart home as arrived, and the number of devices connecting to the IoT will only grow. That’s why it is our mission to create the Forever Battery or Battery Free solutions, so that consumers can seamlessly connect devices in their home without worrying about cost of battery failure.
Connectivity is a crucial element for any healthcare facility. Even before all the recent chatter of the latest generation of mobile networks (5G) and multiple wireless generations of Bluetooth® and Wi-Fi®, and LTE and wired networking before that, connecting a patient to a monitor and then connecting that monitor to screens or devices for medical professionals to check has always been important—it’s been the difference between life and death. But there’s more to connectivity in healthcare than critical patient monitoring.
Today’s healthcare facilities and hospitals now use connectivity that goes beyond what’s needed in the monitoring-for-life-and-death scenario. The wireless technology of choice is Bluetooth, due to the low-bandwidth requirements of these IoT applications, which typically fall into three categories: noncritical patient monitoring, hospital asset tracking and indoor locationing (for example, in very big healthcare campuses where it is easy for things and people to get lost).
Atmosic’s M2 and M3 Bluetooth® 5 platforms, which greatly enhance low-bandwidth IOT applications through lowest power radio design, on-demand receive and controlled energy harvesting, are well-designed for all three categories. Atmosic SoCs provide connectivity at 10-to-100 times lower power relative to other solutions, and offer the added bonus of energy harvesting as a viable power source for connected devices. This means that some IOT devices will be able to source power from energy harvesting through RF or other means (like indoor lighting) and will utilize that power to extend the battery life significantly, or power the device completely, without batteries at all.
Noncritical Patient Monitoring
Examples of noncritical patient monitoring include badges or wrist-bands that incorporate sensors. These might be battery-less bands that read simple data to share vitals—such as common biometrics or even patient IDs—over Bluetooth. RF or light-sourced energy is available through the hospital to power such devices. In some cases the patient could be sent home with the same monitoring device, helping to track and continue the tracking of various vitals post hospital stay, since the first few days after a hospital stay are sometimes crucial for the transition of patient into home care. In addition, connected badges or wrist-bands can track the whereabouts of patients while they are at the facility, an extremely important function for large campuses.
By using battery-free technology such as Atmosic’s, the hospital or healthcare facility can reduce the costs of setting up and continually monitoring patient vitals. One additional benefit? Since batteries can sometimes be problematic for certain types of patient procedures and tests involving magnetics, Atmosic’s battery-free solutions can enable the patient to continue to be monitored even during those type of activities. Finally, since these devices can be re-programmed, they can be re-used for other patients by re-formatting for the new patient (and deleting the previous patent information).
Hospital Asset Tracking
With all of the specialized equipment in a modern day hospital, tracking of these assets is one of the largest problems today. And the larger the healthcare campus, the more challenging the situation is likely to be. This typically occurs because the facility has no standard mechanism for asset tracking, as the assets come from a variety of providers. Add to that, there is no dedicated staff in place to change and maintain the assets or to ensure the batteries and power supplies are current. As such, there are three benefits for asset tracking. Firstly it helps account for the assets – today an average hospital can only account for 60% of assets. The second is it helps in locating them when needed. Thirdly, it could help medical facilities to fulfill compliance and regulatory rules; with an example of alerting when the last defibrillator is being removed from a floor since there should be minimum one per floor.
In fact, many healthcare facilities expect nursing staff to manually track assets, which is a losing proposition when considering the true priority of the nursing staff is care of the patients. A typical 1000- bed hospital has 60-70 thousand assets and takes a staff of four about 120 days annually to track!! With wirelessly connected asset tracking devices that are battery-free or life-time battery capable through energy harvesting, the facilities can save significantly in terms of staff performance, time, money and morale, not to mention cutting back on the number of batteries that need to be properly disposed of so as not to impact the environment. One of the benefits is not just the cost of the battery, but the cost of paying someone to replace the battery.
Indoor Locationing Beacons
The third category covers large hospitals and healthcare campuses—places where you need a map to find your way. These types of facilities often have mapping applications that visitors and employees can download to their cell phone. These applications will synchronize to take signals from beacons placed throughout the campus or hospital to help people get where they intend to go.
The beacons can be connected via Bluetooth and can be battery-free, harvesting energy from nearby devices through RF signals or indoor light energy. As the beacons don’t require a great deal of power, this scenario works perfectly, especially those based on Atmosic’s IOT SoCs.
To learn more about Atmosic’s M2 and M3 platforms, check out our products, here.