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Implantable grade radio chip for in-body Communication systems

3rd May 2007
ES Admin
Zarlink Semiconductor Inc. has introduced the ZL70101 transceiver chip, an ultra low-power RF system-on-a-chip solution for use in implanted medical devices, programmers, and monitoring base stations. Building on Zarlink’s MICS technology platform, the ZL70101 transceiver chip delivers high data rates, low power consumption and unique wake-up circuitry. Using Zarlink’s MICS technology, medical device manufacturers can design in-body communication systems that will improve patient care, lower healthcare costs, and support new monitoring, diagnostic and therapeutic applications.
Previous home health-monitoring systems required the patient to accurately position an inductive wand over the implanted device. In comparison, using Zarlink MICS technology, patient health and implanted device performance data can be stored in the implanted medical device’s memory and wirelessly transmitted to a base station, without requiring patient intervention. Data can then be forwarded over the telephone or Internet to a physician’s office. If a problem is detected, the physician will schedule a patient follow-up visit where the two-way RF link can be used to interrogate and adjust implanted device performance.

During surgery to implant medical devices, the longer operating range of the ZL70101 chip allows the base station/programmer to be located outside the sterile environment. This potentially shortens surgery times and reduces healthcare costs, as programming equipment does not have to be sterilised for use in the operating room.

Ultra low-power RF technology is also enabling a range of new diagnostics and therapies, including implanted devices used to monitor and treat diabetes, neurostimulators that alleviate chronic pain or lessen the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease and dystonia, and gastric stimulators that may offer a viable alternative in the treatment of obesity.

To help conserve implanted medical device battery life, in-body communication systems transmit data on a scheduled or as-required basis. The ZL70101 transceiver incorporates a unique “wake-up” receiver that allows the integrated circuit to operate in an extremely low current 250 nA (nanoamp) “sleep” mode. Communication is then initiated using a specially coded wake-up signal from the base station transmitter. The implanted medical device can also wake up the ZL70101 radio on detection of an emergency medical event. An emergency signal could then be sent to the base station, which in turn could directly alert paramedics.

When in full operation the ZL70101 typically consumes 5 mA (milliamps) of supply current. By using the high data rate with heavy duty-cycling, the average power consumed by the ZL70101 can be very small. This conserves overall implanted medical device battery life.

The highly integrated ZL70101 system-on-chip includes a MAC that implements a communication protocol specifically designed for the requirements of high-reliability implanted medical devices and is fully compliant to current MICS standards. The MAC protocol includes Reed-Solomon forward error correction together with CRC (cyclical redundancy check) error detection and retransmission to achieve an extremely reliable data link. The chip requires just three external components, excluding antenna matching, allowing device manufacturers to use board space savings to increase battery size and support advanced functionality while lowering overall system BoM (bill of material) cost.

The ZL70101 transceiver chip is available as implantable-grade wire-bondable die or in a 48-pin QFN (quad flat no-lead) package for the non-implanted base station applications. The chip is fully supported by a reference system and application development kit.

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