I'm in sunny Munich, at the Electronica 2012 uber-trade show, where we're doing a booth crawl to spotlight exciting new design efforts. (OK, it's dank and drizzly and since it's the first day of the conference, we're still upright.)
We caught up with Maxim Integrated on Tuesday. Christopher Neil, senior vice president of the analog, linear, and mixed-signal vendor's Industrial & Medical Solutions Group walked us through a prototype health app. Dubbed "Cardio Leaf," it's a shirt which showcases the integration of sensors and the analog technology that controls them and processes their data. The objective is to monitor one's vital signs -- most notably, heart rate.
Though not a product, Cardio Leaf serves as a useful example for engineers eyeing the exploding medical systems and applications arena. (To prototype Cardio Leaf, Maxim partnered with Clearbridge and The National University of Singapore. ) There, the confluence of baby boomer aging and smaller, more highly integrated componentry creates a kind of ideal funnel from talented designer to eager consumer.
As you can see in the short video below, electrical sensors, similar to those used in electrocardiogram systems, hug each arm and the torso in the The white patch on the chest of Maxim Integrated strategic marketing manager Steve LaJeunesse is the Cardio Leaf module. This contains the electronics -- microcontroller, power management, and a Bluetooth transmitter to send the information to a screen which (hopefully) displays a rhythmic 72 heart beats per minute.
"Smaller products require more integration," said Neil. "That's the type of thing we're trying to do here -- integrate more functions, make them smaller, make them more convenient for people to wear."
The Cardioleaf electronic module snaps onto the shirt with 4 standard snaps. Simply turn off the device, un-snap the unit and throw the shirt in the wash. My FIT shirt shown in the video survived 3 washings.
It's not a product.... YET. Very cool, and I can see tons of market potential for this. Say the technology was integrated into Nike or Addidas sportswear... they could easily market this as a must have for athletes to track and monitor their own fitness, etc.
The only question is... how do you wash it without killing the sensors??