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How Medical Technology Has Changed Our Lives
Wednesday, 25 August 2021

The risk of medical complications in patients with chronic diseases has always been a challenge for the healthcare community. Wearable’s significantly reduce the likelihood of acute complications. This is realized with portable medical technology, which is tightly networked with microcontrollers and application processors.

Chronic degenerative diseases have no chance of recovery. The patient will suffer for a lifetime and his condition will worsen. As his body over time adjusts to the drug treatment, tachyphylaxis may occur. With this development of tolerance, a higher and higher dosage is required until the patient may no longer respond to the medication at all. Sometimes treatment with several pharmaceuticals is required. It is all the more critical to monitor how well a drug helps the patient. However, physicians cannot expect patients to come by several times a day to evaluate test results and measure vital signs. A visit to a doctor per month should be enough - this is only possible with modern networked medical electronics.

IoT and Health Care

The Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming the key to better health prevention by networking edge/sensor nodes, microcontrollers, microprocessors, networking and power sources with IoT gateways and connecting them to the cloud or data centers through service providers. Medical devices can automatically track a patient's vital signs and compliance with their treatment. Smart patches or sports watches (Figure 1) are available variants to determine the parameters.

Some values could be life-threatening, some important enough to be passed on to medical personnel immediately, and others could show how well specific medications work on the patient. Intelligent gateways must distinguish these cases and act appropriately. The service provider also plays an important role: if he recognizes signal values, he should transfer these together with the patient's medical history to a local doctor or the emergency department of a hospital. This is precisely where Free scale’s reference designs and products based on MEMS sensors, ARM Cortex-M4, Cortex-M0 +, Cortex-A8, Cortex-A9 and multiprocessing network architectures address the full range of low-power MCUs, intelligent sensors to cover complex microprocessors and power architecture building blocks.

Edge / sensor node

Most IoT edge nodes consist of sensors and possibly actuators, an embedded processor, a connectivity module, and a power source. Analog front-ends (AFEs) are the primary interface between the patient and the data processing. Many wearables are realized as rings, watches, patches and in other formats; For the most common chronic degenerative diseases, they need to measure different parameters.

In patients with primary and secondary hypertension, blood pressure is crucial. The sensors must, therefore, measure systole, diastole, mean arterial pressure and heart rate. Current sensors require a cuff and are therefore not practical for continuous monitoring. The oscillometric measurement used is error-prone as the patient moves. New technologies for small cuffless sensors such as photoplethysmography (PPG) wearable height sensors are currently under investigation.

Patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes need to measure their blood sugar (Figure 3). Depending on how strictly the patient adheres to the treatment plan, how well the blood glucose is adjusted or on the specific needs for the drug, after the current evaluation or after continuous / scheduled adjustments may be few measurements a day. Technologies for constant blood glucose monitoring are available in the market.

For patients with cardiovascular diseases electrocardiography (ECG) with a lead is mostly used. The ECG measures the voltage difference between the central electrode and a reference electrode. Often it also fades out interference signals via feedback. Freescale devices enable wearable ECG patches that are already on the market. Such a piece detects the signal via integrated electrodes in the block and passes this on via a radio antenna. Other devices, such as ring-shaped heart rate sensors, are also under development.

Pulse oximetry is needed for patients suffering from certain types of pulmonary disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, lung cancer or specific hematological disorders. Here, a diode pair is used to obtain the partial oxygen saturation values by logarithmic calculations. From this, a PPG can be derived.

Microcontrollers and microprocessors

The data collected through the sensors go through some basic algorithms, threshold detection, and simple data analysis before they are available for evaluation. Everything here is about high-precision measurement and the timely transfer of data to the doctor. Since such devices usually feed on a battery, power-saving techniques are necessary. Also, encryption must protect patient information and data during transmission. Hand held digital oscilloscope is one of the devices to analyze data.

The Free scale Kinetic family of microcontrollers (MCUs) is based on the efficient Cortex-M4 or Cortex-M0 + cores. For applications that use as few external analog components as possible and require a powerful measurement system, free scale recommends the Kinetic K series:

  • Cortex-M4 (DSP / FPU)
  • Precision mixed-signal technology, flex memory technology (EEPROM), HMI, connectivity and security features
  • 50 to 150 MHz, 32 kByte to 1 MByte, 32 to 256 pin

Specifically, the Kinetic K50 MCU has an integrated analog measurement module that includes built-in operational, transimpedance and high-resolution A / D and D / A converters.

Connected and secure

Also, the family features IEEE 1588 Ethernet and hardware encryption, full-speed USB 2.0 on-the-go with charger detection, and a flexible, low-power segment LCD controller supporting up to 320 segments.

For a particularly good power balance, the MCUs of the Kinetics L series are suitable. They combine the energy efficiency and ease-of-use of the Cortex M0 + processor with the processing power, peripheral modules, support landscape, and scalability of the Kinetics 32-bit MCU portfolio. They are hardware and software compatible with the Cortex-M4-based Kinetics K series, providing a scalable transition path to higher computational power, more memory, and more complex features.

IoT gateway with microcontrollers

IoT gateways can take on a whole range of data center functionality and provide local services at each site. Not only do you make simple decisions for the attached edge/sensor nodes, but you can also analyze vast amounts of data locally and pass the essential information to the cloud. The IoT gateways can also provide metadata. They have plenty of memory and work with standard or, if necessary, real-time operating systems.

Free scale microprocessors, such as Free scale’s i.MX-6 series, are designed for gateways that control a touch-screen display, run the operating system and network protocols such as IPv6, 3G, Wi-Fi and other wireless communication protocols, and provide high processing power. This scalable multi core platform is based on the Cortex-A9 architecture and includes single, dual and quad-core families. The four families are pin-compatible with each other. Only the i.MX 6 Solo Lite comes in a smaller case; after all, he is still software compatible with the other families.

Connection to the network

In the end, the data must reach the medical service provider. These decide on preventive measures and possibly prevent acute complications of a chronic degenerative disease. You need processors that handle the data throughput with robust real-time point-to-point communication, such as free scale QorIQ processors.

Although mobile phones could act as a gateway and control and manage some edge/sensor devices. For many patients, however, a tele health gateway is better, which is easy to use and simple enough to install in the home. There are two Power Architecture-based product lines in question: the QorIQ AMP series or the P series. The AMP devices (T1 to T5) are based on the 64-bit multithreaded e6500 core and clock up to 2.5 GHz. They contain the vector processing unit Alive to speed up data processing. The P-Series offers pin and software compatibility between the P1 and P2 families with single and dual-core options. The low-power and low-cost P3 and P4 families with frequencies from 533 MHz to 1, 2 GHz dual-core based on the e500mc core and wait with four to eight cores. Embedded Linux, QNX and Integrity are just some of the supported operating systems.

The interoperability of medical devices is governed by the guidelines of the Continua Health Alliance. They are based on the IEEE Standard 11073 and are used for USB, Zigbee, Bluetooth and NFC.

Long-term benefits

The IoT allows the patient to stay in control and actively participate in his treatment and healing. Corresponding medical devices reduce the social and economic costs of overburdened doctors and nurses, shift activities and diagnostics from the hospital to the patient's home, prevent acute complications, and improve patient care.
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