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Low-power transceiver designed for wireless BAN

Posted: 20 Jun 2011     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:transceiver  wireless BAN  healthcare 

Imec and Holst Centre develop a low-power transceiver designed for wireless body area networks (BAN) in healthcare applications that claims more than one order of magnitude less power than commercially available transceivers.

One of the challenges in fabricating sensor nodes for BANs is the power consumption. To make these nodes comfortable to use, they should at least be semi-autonomous. That means long stretches of operation on a single-battery charge.

One of the bottlenecks for low power consumption is often the wireless communication module, which can be the major power consumer of a wireless sensor node. To help overcome this bottleneck, Imec and Holst Centre are designing dedicated ultra-low power transceivers.

The transceiver chip integrates analogue and digital base band, phase locked loop (PLL) functionality (for signal stabilisation and recognition) and additional programmability for flexible data rates. The 90nm CMOS single-chip transceiver measures 2400µm x 1850µm with pad frame, and is packaged in a QFN80 package.

In receiver mode, the continuous power consumption is said to be as low as 0.687mW. In transmitter mode, the continuous power consumption is 2.5mW at an output level of 0dBm. For an output level of 10dBm, the consumption can be further reduced to 0.9mW. In PLL mode, the continuous power consumption is 1.1mW. In addition, this power consumption could be reduced to below 100µW with dedicated duty cycling technology.

The transceiver supports scalable data rates ranging from 64kbs to 1Mbps. Its transmission range stretches to 30meters if the transmit output level is set to 0dBm. These characteristics are said to make the transceiver ideal as a universal wireless system for many BAN applications such as electroencephalography (EEG), electrocardiography (ECG), electromyography (EMG), skin temperature, skin conductance, and electrooculography (EOG) transmissions.

To demonstrate and test the functionality of modules such as the new transceiver, Imec has prototyped an ECG necklace and its base station. Next to the transceiver, the ECG necklace includes Imec's single channel bio potential readout ASIC to extract ECG signals and a TI MSP430f1611 microcontroller with an embedded beat detection algorithm. The base station includes a TI microcontroller to fetch data from the transceiver chip and an UART USB bridge to transfer data from the microcontroller to the computer through a USB cable.

Imec and Holst Centre are currently working on the third generation of this transceiver, further lowering the power consumption, enhancing the system performance, and improving the tolerance for interference.

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