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Lasers & photonics


valuable information and assistance to athletes, psychiatric patients and people who need long-term care. As such, wearable biosensors have the potential to not only improve our daily lives, but also to change the classical concepts of medical diagnostics and health monitoring. The industry might be on the edge of a shift from the established hospital-based care system towards a more personalised and home-based approach. While making medicine more convenient, this personalisation should also help to cut the time it takes to achieve diagnoses for individual patients, as well as the cost of healthcare more generally.


Hardware made easy


The first attempts to bring biosensors into the hands (or on to the wrists) of consumers began in the early 2000s. The goal then was to capture vital biological information in order to monitor health and fatigue. As a result, the first products were sport-focused, using electrocardiogram heart-rate electrodes to measure pulse rate via a body-clip or wristband. Not long after that, pulse-oximetry devices were integrated into these and similar systems in order to monitor blood oxygen levels. Most recently, thermal IR sensors have been added to measure body temperature.


“With such a range of applications, wearable biosensors have the potential not only improve our daily lives, but also to bring a change to the classical concepts of medical diagnostics and health monitoring.”


Now wearable biosensors come in all forms and shapes. There are accessories such as watches, rings, bracelets and necklaces; smart glasses and contact lenses; and even augmented hats, shirts, belts, shoes and socks. Needless to say, integrating biosensors across all these different forms is a very challenging task, particularly as they are often being adapted from a very well-defined medical environment to a broad range of products with very different sensor configurations. This change requires significant software development.


As far as the hardware is concerned, however, assembly technologies for biosensors are one of the important areas of expertise at Philips Innovation Services. Due to its unique combination of a Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) foundry and micro-device assembly facilities, Philips Innovation Services is well-suited for the development of innovative devices at the smallest scale, and is further helped by its extensive background in product


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industrialisation and optoelectronics manufacturing. As a part of Philips, Philips Innovation Services focuses on medical applications, closely collaborating with a range of partners to develop various probes and sensors for both diagnostic and treatment purposes. At the same time, the company also works with a broad range of high-tech customers across manufacturing and consumer electronics. The MEMS and micro-devices department of Philips Innovation services is especially experienced in manufacturing photonic sensors, whether they’re fibre- based or free-space, spectroscopic or interferometric. One such microscale sensor example is a fibre-based device used for imaging the respiratory tract to diagnose sleep apnoea, as pictured on the right.


Photoplethysmography


Many of the wearable devices on the market today are equipped with optical biosensors. In most cases these are used to monitor users’ heart rate and blood oxygen levels. This non-invasive technique works by measuring changes in how light is absorbed, scattered or reflected. Oximetry is a good example of this because the optical properties of deoxygenated and oxygenated haemoglobin are starkly different. Photoplethysmography (PPG) is another optical technique that can be utilised to quantify blood volume changes in the microvessels of tissues. Although PPG is a mature sensing technology and is used in many fitness trackers to measure heart rate, there is still room for improvement. The Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (Imec) is working on using PPG to measure new parameters while making the technology more robust and reliable. While PPG usually operates at a close infrared or red, Imec is combining different wavelengths into its optical sensors, using red and IR light for oxygen saturation and green light for heart rate, to take two examples. Its researchers are also trialling combinations of different measurement modalities and different measurement points within the body. Key to this ‘multimodal’ application of PPG is a small form factor, low-energy consumption and development of smart algorithms to translate the data into actionable insights.


Furthermore, Imec is investigating the potential of hyperspectral-based PPG-imaging. In this approach, the wavelength of every individual pixel in an image can be detected, making it possible to monitor differences in pressure or oxygen saturation within a tissue. Miniaturisation of the hardware and low-power consumption are also important considerations here.


Optical and audible


Another parameter measured by wearable devices is body temperature. This approach has gained


Medical Device Developments / www.nsmedicaldevices.com


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