Health care faces a dilemma: Medical equipment, treatment, and drugs are increasingly expensive, the global population continues to head north, and in the developed world at least, people are living longer. (A Canadian born today, for example, can reasonably expect to witness the turn of the century.) The result is skyrocketing healthcare budgets.
In the United States (US), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reported that healthcare spending to rise 19.4 percent of the U.S. economy and reach $6 trillion (USD) by 2027. The government health agency cited the rise to the aging baby-boom population that will increase enrollment in the Medicare health insurance program for elderly and disabled Americans. The agency released its data before the COVID-19 outbreak.
A big part of the medical budget is spent on accommodating the poorly monitored and managed health of baby boomers who are consequently admitted into hospitals. According to the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) Department of Health, to keep a patient in a hospital bed for 24 hours costs £400 (i.e., $525 in U.S. currency)—just to cover the bed, food, staff, and the building to house the patient and these services. Blood tests, scans, and drugs cost much more. This expense is multiplied because the time that these seniors’ spend in hospitals is primarily due to treatments for complications of chronic afflictions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular (heart) disease, respiratory (lung) ailments, and kidney disorders. Apart from the obvious distress to the patients and their families, what these insidious illnesses have in common is that if they are poorly managed they cause years of suffering and frequent hospitalizations before the patients succumb.
Type 2 diabetes, for example, occurring when a patient’s tolerance to insulin increases so much that the hormone becomes less effective at controlling blood glucose, is strongly linked to aging and obesity. Poor control of this disease results in high, long-term blood glucose levels causing kidney and heart disease, among other ailments.
Diabetic patient numbers are sobering. Diabetes UK reports that in Britain, one in seven men over 65 have the disease; for women, the number is one in 10. Compared with the general population, says the organization, diabetics are twice as likely to be admitted into a hospital, and once there, stays are prolonged by the complications of the disease.
Poorly managed diabetics costs the British healthcare budget £32 million ($42 million, USD) per year, in addition to other medical costs. Assuming the proportion of diabetics within the U.S. population is about the same as that in Britain, their pull on the US healthcare budget is $210 million. Although $210 million is a relatively small proportion of the overall health bill, it is just for those with diabetes—add in the sufferers of other chronic diseases who need repeated lengthy hospitalizations and the sum becomes significant.
The key to good diabetes management is maintaining a blood glucose level in the healthy range (such as 72mg/dl to 126mg/dl), thus eliminating the complications of the disease that cause hospitalization. Yet, this is much easier said than done, as blood glucose levels are constantly changing in response to food intake, exercise, stress, illness, and fatigue, among other factors. Diabetics must monitor blood glucose by taking frequent small samples of blood for testing, via a finger prick, and then injecting an appropriate amount of insulin to keep their levels in check, while simultaneously considering all the factors that influence their blood glucose levels. This level of health management is an almost impossible task for a medical practitioner, let alone a seventy-something who could be suffering from the early stages of dementia.
However, wireless technology is easing the complexity of blood-glucose control. Today, diabetics can affix a small (subcutaneous) sensor to their arm, which will constantly monitor (over a period of weeks) blood-glucose levels and wirelessly transmit the data via low-power radio frequency (RF) protocols, such as near-field communication (NFC) or Bluetooth low energy (BLE), to a reader or a smartphone. The result is a much clearer picture of blood-glucose variations and the effect of the influences on these variations. A diabetic working out in the gym, for example, can instantly see when his or her blood glucose starts to drop and can then consume some carbohydrates to boost it back to normal before returning to the treadmill. It’s a technology that’s also triggering the interest of non-diabetics who desire to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Already, some pharmaceutical companies offer what is essentially “the artificial pancreas”. A wireless sensor communicates directly with an insulin pump to instruct the device to inject precise volumes of insulin into the blood to keep levels in the normal range—mimicking a human’s natural closed-loop system—without the diabetic’s intervention. And if action is necessary—because, for example, food is required to boost levels—the wireless sensor sends a notification to the diabetic’s smartphone to alert them to act. Such control don’t come cheap, but it will be considerably less expensive than the bill for keeping poorly controlled diabetics in hospitals.
While diabetes is a kind of poster child for wireless medical technology, it’s far from the only medical issue to address. Commercial products employing BLE, Wi-Fi, Zigbee, and Thread are already on the market and serve to monitor a range of vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. Aberrations in these signs from normal levels are indicators of the onset of poor health, but early intervention minimizes hospitalizations. These wireless devices all forward critical information (via a cellular network) to remote medical staff members and family members. Some wirelessly powered products even go so far as to monitor a patient’s every move and pass the information in near-real time to remote artificial intelligence (AI)-powered servers. This process is important because it ensures that any deviations from the patient’s normal routine, which shows to be an early indicator of illness or deterioration in mental health, is rapidly flagged to trigger an investigation.
Wireless technology has gained significant traction among medical applications, but this is just the start of something much bigger. The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), which is the custodian of what was once a low-power wireless technology targeted squarely at the consumer electronics sector, quantifies the promise of wireless technology for medical applications in its Bluetooth market update 2018 report. In the document, Bluetooth SIG reports that shipments of Bluetooth chips for health and wellness devices will grow from 362 million this year to 670 million by 2022, and that’s just one technology variant. The industry groupings representing Zigbee, Wi-Fi, and Thread report similar dramatic growth as well.
As we’re frequently reminded, people are living longer and (in many cases) leading healthier lifestyles. This is primarily thanks to improved medical techniques and interventions. As elderly population demographics continue to grow in most countries, healthcare is following suit, booming on a global scale. Technology has played a huge role in this growth, and continues to enable improvements in healthcare to be realized.
From robotic surgery, electronic anaesthesia regulators, and therapeutic or diagnostic radiology machines, to communications technology in hospital wards, and various instruments found in outpatient departments ), technology is prevalent within the confines of the hospital environment technology being utilized within hospitals continues to develop, but a burgeoning marketplace is also emerging in a domestic context too. Much of it is intended to provide continuous or occasional monitoring of patients’ health, with the results that are gathered uploaded to healthcare operatives in hospitals, clinics or even GPs’ offices.
This reduces the burden on the healthcare system by allowing patients to attend hospitals or doctors’ offices for consultation less regularly than they might otherwise have to do, while enabling alarms to be triggered if unusual readings are noted. Perhaps most valuably of all, it enables patients to enjoy more relaxed lives.
Many people are significantly incapacitated by their medical conditions and find hospital visits mentally taxing and time-consuming. By having their readings captured automatically then passed on to relevant experts for analysis, much less emotional strain falls on the patients’ shoulders. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Near Field Communication (NFC) are two wireless technologies already being widely employed for accessing patient data..
Smartphones and their associated apps are now invaluable to doctors when they are on the move. They enable test results to be called up and viewed rapidly. They have also been found to improve clinical decision making, allowing doctors to check that they are on the right track immediately, rather than having to go elsewhere to refer to notes or study related material. Mobile technology is also frequently used by patients for downloading test results or readings from devices such as single-lead, Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) monitors, for instance.
As evidenced above, many of the innovations being made in the medical field are spin-offs from developments in consumer electronics. Wearable technology has been a tremendous buzz phrase for the last few years, with a great deal of progress being made in the area of fitness aids. While there are signs that the craze is starting to die down in the consumer field, the healthcare market provides an attractive alternative route through which ongoing technological development can take place.
Whatever the underlying basis of these developments may be, the key parameter must always be safety for the patient:In no way can the device in question jeopardize patient health. Medical wearables should not only be safe, but also reliable, both in terms of overall operation and the integrity of data being recorded.
One notable area of development lies in adhesive patches. These items contain sensors that enable the wearer’s sweat to be analyzed for important biomarkers and can, for instance, be used to detect the existence of conditions like cystic fibrosis. Doctors can also use patches to monitor other aspects of a patient’s health, such as oxygen levels, heart rate, or medication-taking.
Academic researchers from the Technical University of Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, are currently working on combining the use of organic and large area electronics with techniques such as thin film metallization. By doing so they can build up multiple layers of sophisticated, flexible electronics that are highly optimised for wearable medical deployment.
Meanwhile, diabetic patients are also benefiting from developments in wearable technology. Frequent and accurate reading of diabetics’ glucose levels is vital to ensure that these individuals’ blood sugar levels remain stable and are controlled effectively. Interstitial fluid (the fluid that is located between body cells and provides much of the body’s liquid content) serves an accurate indicator of glucose levels. A wearable tracker introduced by Dexcom consists of a disposable needle that goes under the skin and measures the amount of glucose in the interstitial fluid, along with a patch that sits on top of the needle and contains the electronics needed to capture the data and subsequently transmit it via Bluetooth. The needle and patch are worn unobtrusively on the user’s abdomen.
Powering wearable medical technology is another important aspect for researchers to explore. Ensuring that a worn device has access to the necessary power reserves is of paramount importance. Certainly no user wants the inconvenience of carrying a heavy battery everywhere. Research teams are studying ways in which nanotechnology can harness users’ body movements or heat to power the technology they wear.
As well as making sure that devices adapted from consumer-related beginnings to medical use are fully safe to use, there are security issues that must be addressed. It is obvious that the Internet of Things (IoT) will play an important role in the future development of healthcare technology. There is already enormous concern about how security for commercial devices is to be implemented and the form it will take in this world-changing development. Healthcare applications, with their stringent requirements when it comes to safeguarding patient data, will cause this anxiety to be amplified considerably.
There are still worries that pacemakers, controlling the heart’s fibrillation patterns for those vulnerable to irregular heartbeats, are relatively simple to hack into. Similar concerns have been raised about controlling the doses of insulin delivered automatically to diabetic patients by a tiny pump fitted in their bodies. The dosage level could easily be raised to lethal levels through the wireless link being compromised. Then, of course, there is the issue of malware finding its way onto hospital computer systems. Recent events have shown that there are serious vulnerabilities in that respect.
Liability is a key consideration in most technology industry sectors, but in few does it prove to be as critical as in healthcare. Medical errors occur, as do medical malpractice cases. Humans will never be completely infallible. Technology has an important role to play in supporting doctors in their decision-making processes, but there is still potential for mistakes to occur, whether in diagnosis or in treatment. If a piece of technology has aided the doctor’s actions, to whom should the blame be attributed? There is the prospect that a bug in the software or faulty hardware, rather than the medical practitioner, may be deemed responsible for inappropriate measures taken that severely impacted a patient’s life. This means that the accountability of device manufacturers, software vendors and IC producers could all be tested on a much more frequent basis. Are the legislative lines going to become increasingly blurred? That is a thorny question for lawyers to chew over.
While there are many concerns surrounding the incorporation of emerging technology into everyday healthcare, there are also immense opportunities for it too. Whether it is in the technology that underlies the delivery of services, advances in thin film electronics, low-power wireless communication, or something entirely new, the potential benefits are unquestionable. This is truly an exciting area to get involved in. After all, our health is the most important thing for most of us. What contribution can you make?
Figure 1: Resonant wireless charging such as Rezence technology produces a wide field tolerating imprecise alignment between charger and device under charge. (Source: Alliance for Wireless Power.)
Today’s wireless charging is like commuting to work by bicycle: great in principle but a pain in practice. Cycling promises fitness, no gas bills and freedom from public transport schedules but the reality involves dodging cars, inhaling truck fumes and arriving in the office disheveled. Similarly, wireless charging has the potential (excuse the pun) to free consumers from the tedium of finding the correct charger from the dozens of incompatible units in the kitchen drawer and to cut through the Gordian knot of power cables lurking under the office desk. Yet wireless charging systems remain thin on the ground and compatible mobile devices are rarer still.
If you drink the analysts’ Kool-Aid you’d be forgiven for thinking the paucity of wireless charging technology is merely down to a lack of consumer awareness. IHS, for example, forecasts that the wireless charging market will expand to $8.5 billion by 2018, up from $216 million in 2013. And according to Technavio, the sector will reach 33% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) by 2020. The reality, however, is that wireless charging’s progress has been slowed by technical hurdles and––surprise, surprise––commercial infighting.
Conventional wireless charging systems suffer from limited throughput so charging laptops and tablets is impractical. Moreover, some devices have to be positioned on the charging platform with the precision of a moonshot for the systems to work properly. Such drawbacks limit consumer acceptance. But things are slowly improving.
One version of the technology uses inductive technology: a charger employs a coil, powered by AC voltage, which induces an AC current in a second induction coil in the consumer’s device. The AC current is then regulated by an AC-to-DC voltage converter to charge the device’s battery. With a maximum power transfer of about 5W, charging is limited to a single smartphone. Another drawback is that inductive coupling works over an extremely short range, around 2 to 4mm, meaning the charging station and the device need to effectively be in immediate contact with one another and precisely aligned. Multiple transmitter coils can be laid over each other in the base station to widen the optimal coupling field, but that adds complexity and cost. The upsides of inductive charging are its relatively simplicity, lack of expense, maturing technology and commercial adoption.
An alternative form of wireless charging attempts to address some of the main drawbacks of purely inductive systems. Dubbed “resonant wireless charging,” the technology uses a primary coil “transmitter” generating an electromagnetic field oscillating at a frequency of 6.78MHz (which is internationally reserved for this type of application while also avoiding the heating issues seen with tightly-coupled inductive systems using lower frequencies). As with inductive chargers, the secondary coil draws power from the primary’s electromagnetic field and the AC power is converted into a DC voltage to charge the battery. Resonant wireless charging gains its advantage because by ensuring both coils resonate at the same frequency, power transfer efficiency is markedly improved over purely inductive systems.
This greater efficiency means it’s not only possible to create a much wider charging field, but also more power can be transmitted, allowing multiple devices to charge from a single charging pad at the same time. The system can even tolerate things like magazines sitting between the pad and the mobile or the device not sitting level. The key downside of resonant wireless charging is complexity. For example, the system requires close control between charger and device being charged which must be achieved (obviously) wirelessly. One popular technology employs Bluetooth Smart to do the job which does require that the device to be charged is fitted with the low power wireless technology (which is often––but not always––the case).
While promoters of resonant wireless charging point to the technical advantages of the method, the inductive charging supporters argue that increasing adoption of wireless charging lies not in figuring out the fastest or most efficient connection, but in making the technology available to people where they need it most. Placing charging stations in public locations such as Starbucks is one way to do this, saving customers from the inevitable search for mains power that results from an intensive session at the coffee shop. Placement in airports and hotels are two more ways. Some manufacturers are pursuing such initiatives as part of their marketing strategy.
Technology choice aside, a major drag on wireless charging’s widespread introduction is the inevitable standards war. Two camps now dominate the space. On one side is the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), a group of manufacturers including the likes of HTC, Panasonic and Qualcomm, who are the driving force behind a specification known as Qi (pronounced “Chee”). The specification supports both inductive and wireless charging with the organization claiming that each has unique use cases and benefits. The organization points out that Qi is built into Nokia, Samsung and Motorola smartphones. On the other are the recently merged Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) (now called the AirFuel Alliance), whose membership count Intel, Broadcom and Duracell among their collective number, and who promote a resonant wireless charging standard dubbed Rezence.
Figure 2: Audi offers an optional Phone Box with Qi Wireless Charging for the brand new Audi A4 & A7 models (shown, courtesy Audi.) Qi can also be found in the Toyota Prius, Avalon, Camry, Lexus NX, the Scion xB, several Cadillacs, Chevrolets and in the Jeep Cherokee. Ford is apparently waiting for the technology to settle. Reference WSj.com.
Unfortunately, the standards struggle is doing nothing to promote common functionality, interoperability or flexibility between the WPC and the AirFuel Alliance. The outcome of the battle is so uncertain that some blue-chip electronics firms, such as Microsoft, Qualcomm and Samsung, have hedged their bets by becoming members of both bodies and introducing products that support both wireless charging technologies – hardly a recipe to limit consumer confusion.
Competing standards wars are nothing new of course, and if the inevitable shake down happens anytime soon it’s entirely possible that the analysts’ forecasts could become reality. That’s something worth praying for. Imagine how universal wireless connectivity coupled with wireless charging anytime we place our mobile devices on a desk, coffee-shop table or bedside cabinet could herald a whole new era of productivity. Don’t hold your breath though. A statement that an engineer “[Has] discovered the essential principles of wireless charging and it only remains to develop them commercially” doesn’t come from a recent WPC or AirFuel Alliance press release; rather these are the words of Serbian-American electrical engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla … spoken in 1921.
It's no fun being tethered, especially when trying to charge a device.
You want the convenience of not having to deal with keeping up with a charging cord for your smartphone or other devices. Now that electric vehicles and wearables are increasing in popularity, you’re dreaming of ways to cut the charging cord, too.
Wireless charging—the method of transmitting energy from a power source to a consuming device without wires or cable—has been around for a while, dating back to inventor Nikola Tesla’s demonstration of wireless power transfer in 1891. More than 130 years later, it's still a growing technology. Designers are coming up with numerous solutions for a wireless charging industry that’s powering forward.
First, let’s review the upsides of wireless charging. Wireless charging is reliable, convenient, and a proven safe technology that eliminates the need for physical connectors and cables. Second, it provides continuous inductive power transfer, provided the charging source and discharged device are closely adjacent and have tightly-coupled compatible coils independent of device type or size—small to industrial.
Wireless charging has its downsides, too. Magnetic fields decay quickly in the air, so wireless charging of current smartphones is limited by distance, and devices are a bit more expensive when you start adding magnetic materials, coils, chips, and related protection circuits.
In this week's New Tech Tuesdays, we'll look at new products from Signal Transformer, PANJIT Semiconductors, and STMicroelectronics which facilitate power-transfer solutions.
We’re probably most familiar with charging pads for smartphones or tablets. These pads employ wireless charging coils that generate an oscillating magnetic field to inductively transfer signals, data, and power from one source to another. The Signal Transformer/Bel Wireless Charging Coils come in single, double, and multiple winding configurations that bridge transmitters and receivers. The low-profile coils are ideal for phones, tablets, gaming controllers, wearable devices, toothbrushes, robotic cleaners, drones, and many smart car charging applications. Inductive coupling, of course, eliminates conductive connections and traditional wiring. In a fixed-in position, the non-moving coils are resistant to vibration and corrosion, which optimizes reliability and longevity.
The PANJIT Power MOSFETs for Wireless Charging Transmitters are optimized to move electromagnetic power from the source to the battery receiver of the application. These power metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs) are designed to keep wireless chargers working properly and efficiently. These MOSFETs come in a low-profile package that saves space while delivering low switching losses and high switching frequencies. The MOSFETs have low field-of-merit (FOM), and exposed thermal pads for surface-mount design. Applications include wireless charging pads and cases.
Wireless power solutions also require power receivers. STMicroelectronics' STWLC68 Qi-Compatible Wireless Power Receiver can manage 5W of output power. The STWLC68 rectifies the AC voltage across the receiving coil into a regulated DC voltage at the output. The 32-bit and 64MHz arm Cortex microcontroller supports Qi 1.2.4 specifications for inductive communication protocols and Base Power Profile (BPP), making it ideal for portable devices such as smartphones, power banks, and wearable devices. A low-loss synchronous rectifier and a linear regulator with low drop-out are responsible for the STWLC68's efficiency. The digital core manages them to minimize overall power dissipation over a wide range of output load conditions. Qi (pronounced "chee") is a global wireless charging standard developed by the Wireless Power Consortium.
Wireless charging is a fast-evolving technology with a large potential for market growth. As long as devices are designed to be convenient, so, too, will be the desire to make wirelessly charging them be equally convenient. After all, few people like to be tethered.
Anymore, the question isn't: Where is RFID technology? The question is: Where isn't RFID?
Radio-frequency identification is virtually all around us. Before we make it to our workstation in the morning, we might start our cars with an RFID-enabled key fob, use a chip for contactless payment for our lattes, or enter our offices with a wearable RFID badge.
Remember the clunky security tags we dealt with when shopping for clothes? They’re an example of legacy RFID tags. Today’s RFID tags are more discrete, come in smaller stick-on or label form, and continue to be essential to manufacturers for point-of-sale, tracing, and inventory purposes.
RFID technology consists mostly of a tiny radio transponder, a radio receiver, and a transmitter. RFID uses electromagnetic fields to search, identify, track, and communicate with tags attached to things.
RFID is a flexible technology that varies with frequency, protocol, and antenna design. The three main frequencies are low frequency (LF, 125kHz to 135kHz), high frequency (HF, 13.56MHz), and ultra-high frequency (UHF, 890MHz to 960MHz, and 2.4GHz). The higher the frequency or the more power generated by the reader, the longer the reading range.
LF can be used for animal identification, industrial production, automation, vehicle immobilizers, and access control. HF works well for asset tracking, ticketing, e-documents, library management, and pharmaceuticals. UHF is more for industrial use cases like pallet or box identification, item-level tagging (such as clothing), and industrial production control. The tags are more effective than manual systems or barcodes because the RFID tag can be read if passed near a reader whether exposed or covered.
Designers have plenty of tags, controllers, and antennas choices for complete RFID solutions. In this week's New Tech Tuesdays, we'll look at the latest RFID products from STMicroelectronics, Murata Electronics, and NXP Semiconductors.
NXP Semiconductors' PN7150 Radio-Frequency Identification Transponder is a plug-and-play NFC controller solution with integrated firmware and NFC Controller Interface (NCI) designed for contactless communication at 13.56MHz. It can rapidly integrate NFC technology into any application, especially those running on operating system environments such as Linux and Android, leading to a reduced bill of material size and costs. The contactless front-end design enables the capability to work in active load modulation communication, which allows the support of smaller antenna form factors.
STMicroelectronics' family of ST25DV04KC, ST25DV16KC, and ST25DV64KC NFC/RFID Tags are dynamic tags with an I2C interface. The tags can be used in numerous applications, including lighting and metering, industrial and medical equipment, smart home, smart banking, healthcare and wellness, consumer electronics, electronic shelf labels, and asset tracking and logistics. They're categorized in 4kbit, 16kbit, and 64kbit electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM) that can be accessed via the I2C interface or a radio frequency link interface.
Murata Electronics LX MAGICSTRAP® UHF Band RFID Modules are board-mounted product traceability solutions. The devices are used in telecom, automotive, and computer applications, including other designs in which an onboard RFID transponder is needed. The modules also use the PCB traces as an antenna for the transponder. Once the module is mounted, information can be stored and retrieved on MAGICSTRAP devices using any EPCglobal Gen2/ISO 18000-6C compatible UHF reader/writer.
RFID growth is being accelerated by the technology's use in the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). RFID tags help track and trace things and assets serving to enhance automation and logistics, something we encounter daily, almost hourly, in everyday life. So, that answers the question we first asked: Where isn't RFID?
Recently, the hearing aid market has undergone a significant transformation with the introduction of
Bluetooth® LE Audio—a subset of Bluetooth® Low Energy technology—and the recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruling regarding access to over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids.
LE Audio is commonly referred to as part of the Bluetooth® 5.2 release by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), and is designed to improve the audio capabilities of Bluetooth Low Energy devices. LE Audio includes a new codec called the Low Complexity Communications Codec (LC3), which provides high-quality audio with low power consumption. The codec also features multi-stream audio, which allows for the simultaneous transmission of multiple audio streams to different devices, and broadcast audio, which enables the transmission of audio to an unlimited number of devices. LE Audio is fully backward compatible with previous versions of Bluetooth Low Energy.
The FDA has played a critical role in the transformation of the hearing aid market by implementing regulatory changes that have opened the market to new players and innovations. In a historic ruling on August 17, 2022, the FDA approved access to over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids that will facilitate millions of consumers with mild to moderate hearing loss improved access to a new generation of more affordable hearing aids.
Traditionally, a few big players, such as Phonak, Oticon, and Widex, have dominated the hearing aid market. These companies dominated the market with their proprietary technology and closed systems, which limited the ability of consumers to choose the best hearing aids for their needs.
However, with the advent of LE Audio, new players like Lyric and Nura have emerged in the hearing aid market. These companies are challenging the traditional players with their innovative products, which offer improved sound quality, enhanced connectivity, and a more personalized user experience, all with the help of LE Audio.
Even traditional consumer audio companies like Sony are entering the OTC hearing aid market, partnering with firms such as WS Audiology, a result of the merger between two hearing aid companies—Sivantos Group and Denmark-based Widex's Lynge. With so many companies competing for a slice of this new market, keeping up with all the changes is hard.
LE Audio has revolutionized the hearing aid market in several ways. Firstly, it has made it possible for hearing aids to connect to smartphones, tablets, and other devices, which has improved the user experience significantly. Secondly, LE Audio has enabled hearing aids to be integrated with other health monitoring devices, such as fitness trackers and heart rate monitors, which can provide a more comprehensive view of a person's health and well-being.
From an engineering perspective, Bluetooth Low Energy technology has introduced new challenges, such as the need to optimize power consumption and improve audio quality. However, it has also opened new opportunities for innovation, such as the development of new algorithms for noise reduction and speech enhancement.
In today’s New Tech Tuesday, we will look at an innovative product from Nordic Semiconductor that fully supports LE Audio.
Nordic Semiconductor nRF5340 Audio Development Kit (DK) is a platform designed for Bluetooth LE Audio, and includes everything needed to start developing LE Audio products and prototypes. The DK is based on the nRF5340 SoC and consists of the nPM1100 PMIC and Cirrus Logic’s CS47L63 Audio DSP. The CS47L63’s high-performance DAC and differential output driver are optimized for direct connection to an external headphone load. The new Low Complexity Communications Codec (LC3) is also available for this DK. Nordic Semiconductor is the market leader in Bluetooth Low Energy and a frontrunner when it comes to developing LE Audio solutions.
The advent of LE Audio technology has transformed the hearing aid market and created new opportunities for engineers to innovate and improve the user experience. With its ability to connect OTC hearing aids to other devices, Bluetooth Low Energy technology has opened new possibilities for engineers to design products that can provide a more comprehensive view of a person's hearing, health, and well-being.
Imagine you have been working diligently on a marketing campaign presentation for weeks and have saved all your slides, documents, and spreadsheets to your portable Solid-State Drive (SSD). You get ready to start your presentation, plug in your SSD, and realize that your laptop fails to recognize it. The initial reaction is panic, and you quickly unplug and replug the drive, but nothing changes. Your laptop still does not recognize the drive. The cause for this catastrophic event (from your perspective) could be many, one of which could be damage to the SSD due to an over-current or over-voltage event. The result is that you have now lost all your hard work and valuable data and information due to potentially inadequate circuit protection.
Circuit protection refers to the use of devices or systems to protect electrical circuits and equipment from damage due to over-current, over-voltage, or other abnormal electrical or thermal conditions. These circuit protection devices include fuses, circuit breakers, electrostatic discharge (ESD) and surge suppressors, TVS diodes, thermal cutoffs, thermistors, thyristors, varistors, and other devices designed to open or interrupt the circuit in the event of a power overload.
Circuit protection is important for many reasons, but safety is the most important. Circuit protection helps prevent electrical fires and other hazards that can result from electrical faults. Without proper circuit protection, electrical faults can also cause extensive damage to equipment and facilities, resulting in costly repairs and downtime. When implemented correctly, circuit protection devices like those mentioned ensure the reliability of electrical circuits, devices, or systems and prevent premature failures due to overloads, short circuits, input voltage surges, and excessive inrush currents.
In this week's New Tech Tuesday, we will explore the critical role eFuse Protection ICs from Littelfuse play in providing robust over-voltage, over-current, and over-temperature protection to downstream circuits.
The Littelfuse LS1205ExD33 Protection eFuse ICs are integrated load switches that provide circuit protection when powering up a system. These devices have a wide input voltage range from 2.7V to 18V, require very few external components, and offer multiple protection modes. Littelfuse’s eFuse ICs are a robust defense against overloads, short circuits, input voltage surges, and excessive inrush currents. A programmable soft-start controls the slew rate of the output voltage to limit the inrush current during plug-in. The LS1205ExD33 eFuse ICs integrate a temperature sensor for thermal shutdown protection and auto recovery. These circuit protection devices are available in a low profile, 10 leads, DFN 3mm x 3mm package.
Circuit protection is a crucial aspect of electrical circuit design. Design engineers employ devices such as Littelfuse LS1205ExD33 eFuse ICs to safeguard equipment and facilities from electrical faults, which can result in costly repairs and downtime.
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