Low-Power Processor Enables Disposable Wireless Vital-Signs Monitor

A bandage-sized vital-signs monitor powered by a printed battery

3 min read

6 February 2008—Hospitals, home patients, the elderly, and even top athletes could benefit from a new disposable wireless electronic patch designed to monitor vital signs, according to researchers at Toumaz Technology. Monday, at the IEEE International Solid State Circuits Conference, in San Francisco, Toumaz engineers described an ultralow-power system-on-chip (SOC) that runs a wireless body-area network capable of sensing temperature, heart rate, respiration, electrocardiogram (ECG) signals, and other vital signs.

There are other wireless vital-signs monitors, says Alison Burdett, director of technology at Toumaz, in Abingdon, England, and a member of the Sensium development team. None of the others, however, fit in an ultrathin patch, are cheap enough to be disposable, and consume as little power as Sensium does. ”We aren’t claiming a new paradigm,” she says. ”But existing systems are generally quite expensive and bulky, and they need reasonable batteries. In that respect, our system is state-of-the-art.”

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3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights

When transistors can’t get any smaller, the only direction is up

10 min read
An image of stacked squares with yellow flat bars through them.
Emily Cooper

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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