From fitness and well-being, wearables are increasingly adopted for ‘the quantified self’. In this application, people go beyond checking their performance to monitoring their health parameters. Wearable makers are therefore integrating more sensors to generate more data to teach, support and monitor users. Electronic architecture and wearable technology designs play a major role in rapidly optimizing accuracy and power efficiency.
Yole Développement’s “Wearables in Consumer and Medical Applications 2020” report estimates a market of nearly $100B for wearable devices by 2025, with a forecast Compound Annual Growth Rate from 2019-2025 (CAGR19-25) of 11.1%, representing a huge opportunity for the consumer electronic industry as well as the healthcare sector.
In this context, Jérôme Mouly, Team Lead Analyst in the Sensing and Actuating team within the Photonic and Sensing Division at Yole Développement had the opportunity to connect with Andrew Burt, Executive Business Manager, Industrial & Healthcare Business Unit at Maxim Integrated. He told us how Maxim is participating and facilitating development of new wearable products. Read their discussion below.
Jérôme Mouly (JM): Could you introduce Maxim Integrated and its wearable activity?
Andrew Burt (AB): Maxim has been active in the wearable market for almost a decade. We develop integrated devices for wearable products that will collect vital body signs in a use case of continuous operation to enable meaningful decisions to be made.
JM: What kind of typical products is Maxim offering to wearable devices makers? In which sensors or biosensors is Maxim differentiated?
AB: Maxim focusses on four technology platforms that support body vital data collection. They are: a Bio Potential Platform for things like ECG and respiration; an Optical Platform for heart rate (HR); an Electrochemical Platform for diabetes; and a Temperature Platform that has 0.1˚C accuracy.
JM: We have seen a strong interest from smartphone makers to move from smartwatches to hearables. Could you explain why? Is this market demand, or functions that could only be implemented in ears, or both?
AB: We have seen healthcare move from smartphones to wrist wearables and now to the in-ear application. All these products are looking to address certain use cases. We can see the public acceptance of hearables for music and communications, so it is logical to add this body site location as a healthcare data collection site. True Wireless Stereo, or TWS, in earbuds is forecasted to be high growth. We can see this today with the many different styles of wireless Bluetooth headsets on the market. It stands to reason that some models will enable healthcare data collection.
JM: Maxim serves healthcare and consumer personal electronics sectors. Could you please tell us about the main requirements and challenges? Are they the same or different across these sectors?
AB: We see the wellness and the medical wearable markets looking to be addressed by traditional medical companies. These companies are deeply experienced in working with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and accustomed to supporting in-hospital use cases. Of course, we also see customers with a consumer electronics perspective who wish to serve wellness applications through an over-the-counter product. Maxim tailors the approach for both types of customer according to their go-to-market strategy, whether direct to the consumer or to the medical professional.
JM: We have noticed an increasing demand for more healthcare functions in wearables including electrocardiograms (ECG), oximetry and blood pressure. Do you also see this trend? Could you explain this demand? Is it reinforced by current pandemic situation?
AB: Prior to the pandemic, many companies were looking to develop Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) products as a way of saving cost and enabling the collection of a larger data set, addressable by advanced analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The pandemic has accelerated this trend. We have the possibility that a RPM product could provide early insight to the risk or the potential risk of a person to contract the virus. This enables faster recovery times, more effective isolation protocols and better viral containment. The pandemic has driven a lot of consumers to want a better understanding about their health, and taking greater ownership of one’s health through ongoing monitoring. People could then generate a good understanding of their current health with daily measurements, and detect changes in that baseline more quickly. It seems that today’s wellness devices are moving closer to medical grade assessment of user health to enable the consumer to make informed lifestyle decisions.
JM: Accuracy of measurement is key, particularly for biosensors. How Maxim is dealing with accuracy requirements?
AB: Yes, we must ensure that the data are sufficiently accurate in order to be useful in determine a person’s health condition. It is generally understood that FDA approval is achieved with the end equipment, such as watch or hearable, and not at the semiconductor device level. Therefore, as a semiconductor device supplier, we need to test our devices in the end equipment in a real world environment. We typically test our products against gold standard devices and compare the results. In this way, we are able to prove that our ECG chips can meet the IEC60601-2-47 standard of Essential Performance of Ambulatory Electrocardiographic Systems. Also, our optical solutions are lab-validated for blood-oxygen SpO2 measurements to the requirements. Our temperature sensor meets the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) temperature thermometer requirement. While we are the semiconductor supplier for the end product, we look to support the certification requirements by providing guidance and design-in support to make a smooth path to certification and sales for our customers.
JM: Within three to five years, what new functions will wearables be integrating?
AB: At Maxim we see the market area of wearables moving quickly in different form factors. We see measurements happening within wristwatches, hearables, patches and in rings around fingers. We can easily envision the advent of smart clothing, with built-in electronics and ongoing data collection. Just as important, we think the product should provide some actionable insight with regard to the data collected. We expect companies to begin to capture the data to provide insights to the user. We are seeing this today in sleep monitoring products, which employ basic body vital sign measurements. While a good diet and exercise is conducive to long life, getting enough good sleep is also important for health. A formal sleep study is very expensive and is only a snapshot in time. We see this as a key area for development right now.
For the longer term, we can imagine that in the future the medical wearable will transform into a product that will not only take measurements, but also suggest adjustments or correlations to the user. This so-called Digital Therapeutic Healthcare is within reach from a technology perspective, although the approval of such products is likely to be very challenging.
JM: Are there any announcements or news you would like to share with our readers?
AB: To support our customers, from time to time we develop evaluation kits that showcase our latest sensor products and enable customers to quickly start collecting data in a close-to-form-factor design. We believe these can save at least six months of development time for our customers. We have recently announced the Health Sensor Platform 3.0, or HSP 3.0. Also known as MAXREFDES104#, this ready-to-wear wrist form factor reference design monitors SpO2, ECG, heart HR, body temperature and motion. Included algorithms provide HR, HR variability (HRV), respiration rate (RR), SpO2, body temperature, sleep quality and stress level information at clinical-grade levels. It allows wearable designers to begin collecting data immediately, saving development time for their end products. Designed for wrist-based form factors, the HSP 3.0 can be adapted for other dry-electrode form factors such as chest patches and smart rings.
Andrew Burt is an executive business manager at Maxim Integrated, where he focuses on business development for the company’s healthcare sensors, optical modules and algorithms. He also helps define new sensor products that will be part of the future wellness and disease management solutions for the emerging Digital Health marketplace. He attended Oxford Brookes University where he studied electrical and electronic engineering and is a 25 year veteran of business management and product marketing in Europe, Asia and the Americas. When he is not thinking about Digital Health requirements he can be found at the Laguna Seca Racetrack as one of the track side volunteers for this non-profit organization.
Jérôme Mouly is Team Lead Analyst in the Sensing & Actuating team within the Photonic & Sensing Division at Yole Développement (Yole).
Jérôme manages the expansion of the technical expertise and market know-how of the team. He actively supports and assists in the development of a dedicated collection of market & technology reports as well as custom consulting projects.
He has conducted more than 100 marketing and technological analyses for industrial groups, start-ups, and institutes in the field of MEMS and sensing technologies.
Jérôme has been also deeply engaged in Yole’s finance activities with a dedicated focus on the commercial exploitation of smart system technologies and access to funding opportunities.
Jérôme is regularly involved in international conferences, with presentations and keynotes.
Jérôme Mouly earned a Master of Physics degree from the University of Lyon (FR).
Wearables in Consumer and Medical Applications 2020
How wearables will add nearly $100B to the consumer and medical electronics market in 2025, offering new opportunities to sensors.
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