Insurance companies call the shots for biosensors
Smart lighting is no longer just about digital dimming or automatic lumen and colour maintenance, but parts such as the company’s AS7221 smart lighting manager (with an embedded true-color Tri-Stimulus RGB sensor) could be used to perform colour tuning to complement daylight intensity and directly impact our circadian clock.
In fact, such unobtrusive wavelength modulation (mostly going unnoticed) can affect our moods and productivity, and this is an early area of research that could find many applications, told Stockmeier to the European press. This may be for optimal health and relaxation at home or on the contrary to increase your alertness level at the work place. This sort of light-based manipulation is akin to forced medication, but if it’s good for productivity and means fewer sickies, sure more than one company will love it.
Ghoshal sees a bigger picture for LED lighting, "lighting is a natural sensing hub" he said, with lighting sockets and power readily available in every building. So ams wants to create the sensing solutions to fill the future market needs, and according to Ghoshal, this means a move from today’s dumb LEDs to complete spectrally-cognitive sensor platforms, LED lights doubling as multi-sensor hubs to increase context awareness and accelerate IoT deployment along a trend he calls the Internet of Awareness (trade marked on his slide).
Implemented as self-learning luminaires, such IoT sensor hubs could serve for occupancy and motion detection, navigation, space utilization monitoring, safety and security (smoke/fire detection), air quality monitoring or circadian compensation.
Pushing their data to the cloud for analytics, these context-aware sensors would enable new cloud driven services and solutions, going beyond local controls to support self-learning connected cloud services.
Here again, multi-spectral sensing is on the agenda at ams, for the detection and identification of environmental biometrics.
"This is where our advance in integrated nano-optics will differentiate us from competition", Ghoshal highlighted, sharing some slides on interference filters and lenses built on CMOS. Using advanced optical packaging and TSVs (Thru Silicon Vias), the company is capable of stacking multiple optical filters on the same die from visible to near infrared wavelengths (380 to 1000nm) with integrated digital processing for spectral classification and identification.
Another well-being related product, the AS7000 launched during the event is the company’s first product in its biosensor family, a total solution enabling 24/7 heart rate measurement for wearables. The AS7000 platform solution includes an integrated optical sensor module accompanied together with software to deliver what the company says are the industry-leading, highest accuracy optical heart rate measurement (HRM) and heart rate variation (HRV) readings.
Designed within a 6.1×4.1×1.0mm opto-mechanical package, the AS7000 relies on photoplethysmography (PPG) to derive the pulse rate by sampling light modulated by the blood vessels, which expand and contract as blood pulses through them.
Through treadmill exercises, ams engineers have benchmarked the solution against existing electro-cardiogram (ECG) based fitness and health monitoring applications, they claim equivalent accuracy, but for a much better wearability (wrist rather than chest-strapped) which would make the module suitable for a fit-and-forget type of wrist band to support continuous monitoring. The device also enables skin temperature and skin resistivity measurements by providing interfaces to external sensors.
AS7000 system integration with GSR and skin temperature measurement.
It could be paired with an external accelerometer so the embedded algorithms can filter out motion artefacts attributable to the beating of the heart which interfere with PPG readings, irrespective of the wearer’s own motion.
By wearing such bands for several days (in between battery changes), users would provide their doctor a more complete view of their vital parameters, including trends and historical information. This could be an enormous market, providing such health monitoring becomes mainstream.
In fact, when designing such sensor solutions, ams is in discussion with insurance companies, not just designers or doctors, let alone consumers who may not feel compelled enough to wear that thing. "By talking to insurance companies, we want to know what they would expect from this technology", justified Ronald Tingl, Senior Marketing Manager for the biosensors line.
Some would want to tie the data to medication, to see how pharmaceuticals and exercise recommendations can work together. Actually, it seems that most companies in the health & fitness sensor market try hard to convince law makers and insurance companies that they would all benefit from making such bands compulsory, or at least cost-prohibitive not to use (due to increased insurance premiums).
After the point system for driving licenses, maybe the future holds a point system for unhealthy behaviours (lack of exercise or too rich food intakes among other things)?
A complete HRM/HRV wristband demonstration kit is available together with a heart rate app allowing for real time logging of all the data. Future generations will include reflective SpO2, skin temperature, Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) and blood pressure, we were told.