This week, Maxim Integrated announced the release of a wearable platform for remote monitoring of biometrics.
The Health Sensor Platform 2.0 or HSP 2.0, as it's called, is intended to allow designers a clearer path towards prototyping wrist-worn wearables to monitor human vital signs, such as EKG, heart-rate, and body temperature.
Unlike most prototyping systems, the unit is available as a fully functioning device. Worn like a wristwatch, all of the machine-body interfaces are established between the underside of the device and the wrist via the sensor board. No other intermediaries, such as a chest strap, are required.
The Health Sensor Platform 2.0. All images used courtesy of Maxim Integrated.
Wearable Sensors in Medical Applications
The values that remote wearable devices provide are twofold. First, most people who have visited a doctor’s office are aware of what is often called “white coat hypertension”, which is the stress associated with visits to medical offices and the resulting spikes in biometric indicators of stress. The erroneous measurements caused by this phenomenon are avoided by remote monitoring, whereby readings of vitals take place at home, at work and at other locations common to the wearer’s ordinary, daily life.
The second benefit of wearable biometric sensors is a multitude of data points. Traditionally, biometric information has only been recorded during brief and often scarce medical visits. Wearable devices equipped with sensors can paint more accurate, detailed pictures of a patient's well-being by taking readings that last for hours. This information can be stored in the device and either downloaded later via USB cables or streamed real-time via Bluetooth.
Micro Board and Sensor Board Combined
The platform is divided into the sensor board and the micro board:
The micro board (left), sensor board (center), and the two stacked (right).
The sensor board incorporates:
- MAX30001 biopotential and bioimpedance analog front-end
- MAX86141 optical pulse oximeter and heart-rate sensor
- MAX32664 sensor hub with embedded heart-rate algorithm
- MAX30205 human body temperature sensor
The micro board contains:
The MAXREFDES101 block diagram.
Software for the platform is undergoing constant development and upgrades, so it would be impractical to announce a new product iteration with each new improvement. So, while the unit comes shipped with the latest software available and upgrades are easily downloadable.
Maxim Integrated's 2018 in Wearables (So Far)
In January at CES 2018, Maxim introduced the MAX86140/86141, a low-power optical AFE that uses PPG signals to measure heart rate and pulse oximetry now featured on the sensor board discussed above. In a conversation with AAC about that release, Maxim's Executive Director of Business Management for the Industrial and Healthcare Business Unit, Andrew Baker, expounded upon the importance of preventative health care and the role that sensors play in the future of medicine.
Power, Baker pointed out, is one of the major pain points for bringing these devices to market. Optimizing these devices for sustained monitoring is the difference between spot-checking biometrics and creating a dataset that helps people understand how their habits affect their health day-to-day.
At Sensors Expo 2018 in June, Maxim introduced their MAX-HEALTH-BAND, a precursor to the HSP 2.0 which also leveraged the MAX86140 sensor and the MAX20303 power management device.
The MAX-HEALTH-BAND at Sensors Expo 2018.
At that event, Maxim's Executive Business Manager for the Industrial and Healthcare Business Unit, Andrew Burt, further expanded how wearables can change the healthcare industry. "Once you can extract good vital signs [from the data gathered by these devices], you can some predictive proposals to people to help them... make conscious health decisions." This, he argues, means that these sensors can be effective tools in preventative medicine, helping identify warning signs before an illness takes hold.
After a disease has been identified, however, "How you manage that [disease] to... ensure better outcomes?" A real-world example Burt cited was using biometric sensors to help a patient who's undergone cardiac surgery get home sooner, getting the patient out of the hospital environment and freeing up their hospital bed at the same time. By monitoring a patient's biometrics remotely, without relying on that patient actively reporting their biometrics, themselves, a physician may be able to safely keep an eye on a patient's post-op recuperation without needing them to physically be in the hospital.
These considerations towards the difference between occasional data gathering and gathering data over a longer amount of time (as well as industry regulations) have guided Maxim's agenda towards hardware development.
An Upwelling of Wearable Medical Devices
There's been a veritable explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT) wearables, particularly in the medical applications space. Alongside Maxim Integrated, many other companies are looking to make their mark on the medical wearable industry.
From Apple, which just weeks ago got FDA clearance for its ECG functionality on the Apple Watch, to AliveCor to Peerbridge Health—there are plenty of biometric-monitoring wearables to choose from. Byteflies, for example, is a Belgian-American startup offering a kit containing programmable vital signs sensors for remote monitoring. The devices are targeted at OEMs designing their own systems, and they also connect with the company’s own data processing platform.
What would you use this platform for? Are there any off-the-wall applications can you imagine for this hardware? Share your thoughts in the comments below.