EINDHOVEN, NETHERLANDS Europe's Imec research group plans to produce before the end of the year a short range RF transceiver ten times more power efficient than today's Bluetooth and Zigbee chips. Imec demonstrated discrete blocks here Monday (June 7) capable of sending 1,024 Kbytes/second over five meters while consuming less than one milliwatt.
General Manager, Human ++ program, Imec
The technology could enable body-area network devices that last for up to six weeks, compared to today's devices that last about five days. "This is exactly what we need to go into long term monitoring of patients," said Bert Gyselinckx, general manager of Imec's Human++ program.
Body area networks are seen as key components for next-generation health care devices that monitor patients continuously at home.
The Imec RF design uses a simple on-off keying modulation scheme and a regenerating receiver. The approach also allows signaling in the range of -10 dB, good enough for five meter distances needed for body area networks.
The integrated transceiver should measure 1.6 x.06 mm in 90 nm process technology. It will run at 1.0-1.2 volts.
Radio components eat as much as 47 percent of the power used by wireless networks, making them the first of many targets for Imec's low power electronics program. "We are making all kinds of ultra low power components to build next generation low power sensors," said Gyselinckx.
The ultimate goal is to drive down the power consumption of electronics for wireless sensor networks so they could run from energy harvesting techniques and not require batteries. But that goal is still years away, in part due to the immaturity of energy harvesting technology.
Today's best harvesting components deliver at most about three milliwatts of power, said Gyselinckx. But the wireless electronics currently consume more than three times that much power, he added.
"We are stuck with batteries for the foreseeable future," he said.
A separate Imec team is working on a so-called Bio-DSP that could reduce power consumption for wireless networks another ten-fold. Researchers will describe the part in a June 8 session.
It's not clear how quickly the industry will adopt low power networks such as Bluetooth Low Energy expected to be built into products this year. Meanwhile, the IEEE has a relatively new study group exploring standards for body area networks.