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Written by Joan Ceuterick
on 28 Sep 2020

Modern medicine as we know it today is just over three hundred years old, and there is little doubt about the impact it has had on our society. According to data compiled by The World Bank, the global average for life expectancy at birth stood at 72.38 in 2017, a jump of almost 20 years since 1960. However, as we move towards improving access to healthcare and delivering a patient-centric experience, digital health is coming to the fore in the form of specialized medical technology (MedTech) product and service offerings.

From portable and wearable devices to smart implants that monitor and relay vitals on a real-time basis, to smart and ingestible drug delivery systems, we are witnessing a convergence of medicine, software, hardware, and data. And while there are multiple variables that are contributing to this phenomenon, a key aspect that is fueling innovation in the medical technology space is the development and deployment of semiconductors, particularly in the Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) segment.

KEY TRENDS AND GROWTH DRIVERS

As the MedTech market matures, the following trends and growth drivers could play a key role in the uptake of semiconductors in the digital healthcare space:

Shifts in the delivery of healthcare: As governments and private providers look at making healthcare more accessible and patient-centric, there is a greater need to move beyond traditional settings such as hospitals and clinics. It has been established that 80% of the care pathway can be delivered online without adversely affecting patient outcome. So, in a not-so-distant future, we can expect providers to deliver healthcare services at the consumers’ doorstep. This shift will propel a surge in demand for smart and connected medical devices.

Portability and miniaturization of medical devices: Advances in technology and miniaturization are giving birth to a new generation of portable equipment, wearable medical devices as well as ingestible medical implants. Combined with mobile connectivity, this will enable healthcare providers to offer reliable services to their patients in the comfort of their homes.

Diagnostics and “lab on a chip”: Improvements in sensor technologies and sophisticated digital imaging have enabled medical device companies to develop high-end diagnostic solutions. These products necessitates low-power, low form factor and high performance. System-on-chip solutions that enable integration of digital, analog, and mixed-signal functions become very critical to enable reliable and accurate functioning of these devices.

THE ROLE OF ASICs IN ADVANCING MEDTECH

Medical devices have very niche requirements that need highly sophisticated technologies and, complex design. ASIC chips applications in healthcare range from addressing signal challenges in connected devices- such as electrocardiograms (ECG), electroencephalogram (EEG), photoplethysmogram (PPG), galvanic skin response (GSR), functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), electrical and bio-impedance etc. ASIC chips unique SoC make them ideal for low-power, high-performance medical grade wearables which can be implantable or ingestible due to the smaller form factor. They are also well suited for wide-range of connected health devices which can be unique solution for battery-powered wireless healthcare applications. Here are few reasons why custom asics are a gold standard in chip design for medtech applications:

  • Better performance: Medtech applications, many a times, need near real-time processing (for example for instance imaging processing- computed tomography, ultrasound, remote monitoring, etc). These algorithms require high-end processors capable of processing at very high speed with shorter time-span. During the current COVID-19 there has been advent of telemedicine, which requires high quality and faster processing of data and imaging from point-of-care devices for remote monitoring, ASIC chips may be extremely useful in such scenarios.
  • Small size: In principle, implantable and ingestible and portable medical devices are similar to normal equipment - in that both require a sensor, power supply, microcontroller, and a transceiver. However, the size requirement of such devices makes the design process infinitely complex. Custom ASICs allow OEMs to integrate and embed those features on a chip within a small form factor. For context, semiconductor players are currently able to design transistors that measure 7 nanometers.
  • Low Power consumption: Due to size and other technical constraints, implantables need an ultra-low power source, and in some cases, alternate sources of power. ASIC chips due to its smaller size uses lesser power consumption compared to standard components. Custom ASICs can be optimized for such low power requirements and even use innovative means like a magnetic field emitted from an RF antenna to power implantable or wearable devices.
  • IP protection: Due to lower number of components, they are more reliable hence the performance is much better and failure rates are lower. Also, a device may be reengineered but a chip provides fool proof protection as the IP is embedded in silicon and there is no way it can be copied; hence custom ASICs provide complete IP protection to your product
  • Lower cost: Despite the initial investment, for working with ASIC chips, the return on investments are high as it requires fewer electronic components and brings down the BoM costs as well as costs lower to assemble. Also, a turnkey provider like Cyient, take care of the post-design aspects including test, verification, industrialization and supply thus saving on both cost and time.

POWERING MEDICAL DEVICES WITH CUTTING- EDGE CHIP ENGINEERING

Glaucoma is an eye disease affecting about 4% of the above-40 population and can cause blindness unless treated early. One of the symptoms of glaucoma is an increased intraocular pressure. Sensimed AG, a Swiss company specializes in design and development of integrated micro-systems for medical devices, developed a soft hydrophilic single use contact lens which can monitor intraocular pressure and transmit the reading to a data recorder. Accurate operation of these devices depends on a consistent supply of reliable power but there is no possibility of placing a battery source in the lens. This is where Sensimed sought our expertise - Learn more on how Cyient designed a battery-less custom ASIC for continuous monitoring of the intraocular eye pressure.

Our center of excellence for custom turnkey mixed-signal ASICs is capable of managing the end-to-end product development lifecycle - from concept and design to lab-validation and high-volume production until the end-of-life. While our ASIC offering cuts across a number of semiconductor applications, we specialize in designing and supplying integrated circuits for medical devices. This was recently recognized in the form of the ISO 13485:2016 certification, an international quality management standard for the medical device industry for the safety and traceability of medical products. We look forward to partnering with you and help realize your next-generation medical innovation.

Contact us to know more on how we are enabling excellence in healthcare through our custom ASICs.

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