Prevention is better than treatment for personal health care equipment market taking off

Medical electronic products can be roughly classified into medical devices and preventive devices depending on whether they have medical behavior. The latter is also a personal health care device, such as sphygmomanometers and blood glucose meters. With the popularization of the concept of “prevention is better than cure” in recent years, the demand for such consumer medical electronic products has also gradually increased.

In general, because the use of medical electronic products involves the safety of patients, national laws generally require that therapeutic medical instruments must be developed from professional medical experiments. Products need to undergo years of clinical trials and meet various stringent certification standards to be commercially available. The addition of channels and market attributes is relatively closed, so the entry threshold is extremely high. Relatively speaking, preventive personal health care products still need to pass the rigorous testing of national health management units, such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but they are less than the threshold of academic development and clinical experiments, and become semiconductor companies. The first choice for cutting into the medical electronics market.

With the continuous advancement of semiconductor technology, the chip has reached its peak in miniaturization and low price, which not only makes the price of consumer medical electronic products gradually reach the acceptable range of the general public, but also the portability brought by the reduction in size. Let such products capture the home market in one fell swoop. The semiconductor industry can not only control the health of the people, but also create another blue ocean outside the 3C.

In the highly competitive consumer medical electronics market, how do semiconductor manufacturers create differences and seize the market? We can use human interface, low power consumption, charging design, and high-level integration. Explore.

User-friendly interface first-image display and voice broadcast function

As consumer medical electronic products enter the lives of families and individuals, the importance of humanized interfaces is also increasing. Usually, people who use such products at home are not professionally trained medical staff, but most of them are middle-aged and elderly people, especially in an aging society like Japan. According to statistics, it is estimated that by 2020, half of the adult population in Japan will be over 65 years old, and the situation that people cannot take care of each other will increase dramatically. Therefore, intuitive image display and voice broadcast function will become the first key to the success of consumer medical electronic products in the market. (*Based on the calculation of the average birth rate and mortality rate of the “Japan Future Population Estimate” by the National Institute of Social Security and Population Studies of Japan)

At present, many consumer medical electronic products on the market are displayed in the simplest form of the segment type interface, which can only present numbers and indices that require further interpretation. In addition, in the voice part, there is only a conventional voice chip in the form of recording pre-storage, which is not only inconvenient to use, but also not humanized. However, the image display can be compared and analyzed for historical data, and the curve chart shows the change of the health situation, providing more additional effects. The voice effect of natural vocals makes consumer medical electronic devices more similar to human care.

In response to these demands, many vendors have begun to use digital controllers to integrate LCD drivers or controller solutions in an attempt to provide image display capabilities. At this point, the resolution and stability of the LCD driver or controller itself, as well as the know-how of the manufacturer's function integration, played a key role.

Currently Epson offers such products, including 4-bit, 8-bit, 16-bit to 32-bit microcontroller products. The 16-bit or less microcontroller is a single-chip solution that integrates LCD drivers and supports up to 128x64 monochrome dot matrix. Compared to traditional products that only support 40x4 dot matrix resolution, healthcare products with Epson microcontrollers have a more refined picture and provide an easier-to-read analysis chart. It is understood that many Japanese medical electronic products currently use dot matrix liquid crystal displays to provide more additional functions. The 32-bit microcontroller integrates an LCD controller for medical electronics with a TFT-LCD display screen of 3.5 inches or more.

In terms of voice announcements, Epson developed a series of voice chips. The voice chip including the model S1V30080 is designed for embedded applications. It has 5-channel tempo synthesis function, which can play 5 octaves in 5 channels at the same time, and has built-in two-channel voice-read only memory. The 8 kHz specification can play for about 30 seconds and 16 kHz for about 15 seconds. The tempo synthesis function is completely independent of the function of reading data in the built-in read-only memory. The user can mix the two sound effects and set the volume individually, so that a natural vocal effect can be played.

Low power consumption and charging design, high efficiency, non-contact charging, attracting attention

In addition to image display and voice playback, based on the high demand for portability of consumer medical electronic products, power consumption management of microprocessors and charging design of electronic devices have become another winning factor for manufacturers to enter the market. Because of the many external factors, including health care products such as blood glucose meters, it is necessary to use active and small components, and the use of external power sources, so the power consumption of semiconductor solutions has become an important indicator.

Taking Epson as an example, the company started with the manufacture of watch parts, and designed the microcontroller IC products with the highest demand for “power saving”, so that the watch can maintain its operation for a long time. As early as more than a decade ago, Epson was able to design and manufacture 4-bit microcontrollers with operating voltages as low as 0.9V using a 0.6μm semiconductor process, that is, the power required to illuminate a conventional bulb. It can drive up to 3 million 4-bit microcontrollers. Even in today's semiconductor industry, the operating voltage of 0.9V maintains the best level in the industry.

In addition, like other portable 3C products, the charging design of portable medical electronic products is one of the demands of related companies to add value to products and create differentiation. Unlike traditional metal contact charging methods, non-contact charging has become a recent development of technology. In general, the non-contact charging technology can solve the dangers of contact sparks, wet electric shocks, etc. caused by general contact charging, improve the safety of the products, and reduce the contact failure caused by wear, oxidation or dust cover. Inconvenience of inserting contacts, etc.

In fact, non-contact charging technology has appeared in the early 1990s, but this technology has only recently received widespread attention. The main reason is that the transmission efficiency of contactless charging has been greatly improved, only 10% in the past. To the extent of -20%, by 2006 and 2007, the efficiency of non-contact charging has progressed to around 60%. In cooperation with Murata Manufacturing, Epson has jointly developed a contactless charging module called Air Trans using the principle of electromagnetic induction, which has a transmission efficiency of up to 70% and can transmit a large amount of power with a very small amount of heat. . This contactless charging technology can be applied to the charging design of many handheld devices and has become quite popular in Japan. However, in recent years, due to the booming consumer electronics market, Epson is planning to introduce this technology into medical electronics to further provide the safety of consumer medical electronic products during charging.

Versatile and highly integrated to meet market needs while taking into account size and power consumption

In response to the multiple demands in the market, the development of semiconductor technology for consumer medical electronic products should pay attention to the integration of multiple functions, but at the same time can not ignore the quality of each function and properly manage the power consumption of the product. For example, the current technology development of medical electronic devices by various manufacturers is still independent of each other, and the functions of medical products are limited to data collection and storage, and the result information of cross-detection cannot be properly used. How to integrate various systems and string together information flow will be the next growth opportunity for medical electronic products. At present, the USB interface will be an important additional function because it can easily and efficiently transfer measurement data to a medical information processing infrastructure such as a hospital or home security system.

According to the study, the elderly have an accident at home. If they can be found within one hour, the survival rate will be 75%; if it is more than one hour, the mortality rate will increase relatively. Since the users of personal medical electronic products are mostly elderly people, whether the product has wireless care functions such as remote monitoring and network transmission has become one of the development priorities. According to data from the Institute of Industrial Science and Technology of Taiwan Industrial Technology Institute, the health care market using wireless communication technology will hopefully grow to $10.7 billion in 2010. The main key to the growth of the market is the degree of integration of wireless communication technology and medical information system services.

Whether it is the above-mentioned USB interface, remote monitoring or network transmission functions, or the image display and voice playback functions mentioned at the beginning of this article, considering the product size and power consumption requirements, a single chip will be ideal. solution. Epson has long-term experience and technology accumulated in wiring and power consumption control of a single chip, so it can develop multi-function single-chip products that meet the needs of its product functions and power consumption specifications according to customer needs, bringing customers the greatest value.

Welcome to huge business opportunities to win trust with high precision and reliability

Finally, in addition to the above three aspects, the high precision and reliability of medical electronic products are not to be underestimated. Although it does not involve medical behavior, the measurement data of consumer medical electronic products will still affect the patient's treatment plan. In view of this, the performance of related semiconductor components in antistatic interference, temperature range stability and product reliability is also a necessary consideration for end product customers when selecting a semiconductor solution.

According to a survey by Espicom, the global medical electronics market will reach $90 billion by 2010. According to the survey data of the semiconductor industry itself, the global shipment of consumer medical electronics in 2009 was about 230 million units, and by 2011 it will grow to around 270 million units. The consumer personal medical care products referred to herein include blood glucose meters, sphygmomanometers, body fat meters, digital thermometers, heart rate monitors, nebulizers, and electrotherapy equipment (DENS Devices).

Due to the huge business opportunities, the consumer medical electronics industry has attracted many investors from all over the world. In the Taiwan area, there are also operators such as Quanta, Hon Hai, Chi Mei and Delta. For terminal equipment manufacturers, the pros and cons of related semiconductor solutions will become the key to product success. How to choose a semiconductor solution that can reduce design complexity, achieve low power consumption, maintain high reliability and product stability, and provide many added value will be an important issue for related companies.

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