Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man

Body area network devices take shape

Imec, NXP among those readying for new IEEE standard.

Body area networks (BANs) are expected to receive formal standardisation before the end-of-the-year under IEEE 802.15.6, and research is already under way into what could be the first wave of certified products.

One of the most interesting proposals at this week’s International Solid-State Circuit Conference (ISSCC2011) came from the Imec research group, The Holst Centre and NXP Semiconductors.

They have developed an ultra-low power biomedical signal processor based around NXP’s existing CoolFlux DSP baseband core. CoolBio is said to consume only 13pJ/cycle when running a complex ECG (electrocardiogram) algorithm at 1MHz on an operating voltage 0.4V. The device is C-programmable, voltage and performance scalable, supports a frequency range of 1MHz up to 100MHz and has an operating voltage from 0.4 to 1.2V.

The architecture and circuitry targeted the near-threshold voltage (0.4V) for low operating frequencies. The design implemented an “extreme separation” of multiple voltage, power, clock and memory domains to achieve high energy efficiency from standby to 100 MHz performance.

BAN devices will need to be extremely power-efficient as many proposed applications could see them attached as ‘smart plasters’ or implanted within patients for several months.

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