Wearable smart technology is big news. We have seen something of an explosion of small devices with somewhat specialized purposes – from activity tracking wristbands to smart watches, smart bras and t-shirts, all the way to smart glasses. The technology is widely considered to be in its infancy: the market is poised for explosive growth, but there are a few barriers in the way. One of these is how people are still adapting to the use of such smart technology in everyday life. Activity bands are subtle and in many cases not particularly interactive, whereas smartwatches are more so. We have seen how individuals wearing Google Glass have been abused in public. However, away from the human elements of the technology, there are other ways that smart wearable technology is still developing and one of these is in the hardware itself. To take the example of Google's Android Wear and Glass devices, these have essentially pressed existing chipsets into service. The requirements of a wearable device are different to that of a smartphone or tablet: chipsets, for example, must still offer a certain level of performance but most also operate using less power and producing less heat. These chipsets are also designed to be used with a number of different sensors, such as heart rate monitors: the specialist sensor market is still relatively untapped market, but one we have seen a number of chipset manufacturers and designers expressing an interest.
We have seen these chipset manufacturers working on develop new technologies specifically designed for the wearable market, which leads us to MediaTek's latest announcement: they have just dropped the MediaTek MT2511 bio sensor, which is designed to work with MediaTek's existing specialist sensor and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. The MT2511 is described as a medically accurate health data collection bio sensor chip combined a a tiny processor. The chip works well with MediaTek's MT2502, MT2523 and MT2601 specialist Android Wear chipsets and can work with or without a touchscreen as required. The MT2511 has a built-in heart beat interval estimation system for photoplethysmography (PPG) signals, 4 Kb of low power static RAM (SRAM) and can allow a connected controller chip to remain idle for up to four minutes, depending on the circumstances where it is being used. It can also take an input feed from an electrocardiography (ECG) sensor and the bio-signal options include electromyography (EMG), electroencephalography (EEG) and pulse oximetry (SpO2).
It follows a four year joint project between MediaTek and the National Taiwan University Hospital and has been medically approved "for robust healthcare scenarios." The unit itself is physically tiny, measuring 3 millimeters by 3.4 millimeters, and has ultra low power consumption. MediaTek's Corporate Vice President and General Manager of IoT business unit, J C Hsu, said this on the new MT2511: "It's ideal for a variety of devices, including fitness trackers, active lifestyle smart watches and sports bands. The MT2511 equally suits next-generation health and wellness devices such as smart medical patch and smart clothing to cater for the emerging eldercare segment… The mobile health market is one of the fastest growing technology sectors… We're excited to contribute to this unstoppable trend by providing our first bio-sensing processor."
Given the cooperation between MediaTek and the National Taiwan University Hospital, the MT2511 may see adoption in a wide circle of devices. MediaTek expect the MT2511 to enter production in the second half of 2016 and will be demonstrating the product at their MWC stand.