Zarlink introduces world's first wireless chip designed specifically for in-body communication systems

Ottawa 31 May 2005Zarlink Semiconductor has introduced the world's first transceiver chip designed exclusively for wireless communication systems that link implanted medical devices and base stations. The ZL70100 ultra low-power transceiver chip fully meets the MICS standard defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). No other commercially available chip designed for implanted communication systems matches the data rate, ultra low-power performance and high level of integration delivered by the ZL70100 transceiver.


Zarlink's ultra low-power RF technology allows high-speed 500 kb/s data transmission over a typical two-meter range. In comparison, previous implanted communication systems relied on magnetic coupling between coils in an in-body device and a base station. This approach operated up to a 10 cm range, with data transmission rates of a few 10s of kb/s.

Advances in ultra low-power radio expertise and global adoption of the MICS 402-405 MHz frequency band for implanted communications opens the door for advanced telemedicine applications that extend patient health monitoring beyond the traditional clinical setting.

Physicians can use MICS technology to remotely monitor patient health without requiring regular hospital visits. For example, an ultra low-power RF transceiver in a pacemaker can wirelessly send patient health and device performance data to a bedside base station in the home. Data is then forwarded over the telephone or Internet to a physician's office, and if a problem is detected the patient goes to the hospital where the high-speed two-way RF link can be used to easily monitor and adjust device performance.

During surgery, a physician can use the higher data rates and longer communication range afforded by MICS technology to program the performance of an implanted device outside of the sterile surgical environment.

"Zarlink's MICS transceiver provides several orders of magnitude increase in data transmission rate and communication range compared with previous technologies, offering an ultra low-power consumption and highly integrated radio telemetry solution", stated Steve Swift, senior vice president and general manager, Ultra Low-Power Communications, Zarlink Semiconductor.

"Our MICS radio platform ensures implanted medical device manufacturers can design systems that meet strict global standards. The higher data rate and extended communication range of our radio transceiver enables advanced in-body communication systems, such as implanted blood glucose sensors controlling insulin intake for diabetes patients, networked stimulators restoring lost limb function or pacemakers using the high-speed wireless link to signal emergency response during a cardiac event."

Since most implanted medical devices do not require constant communication, and instead transmit data on a scheduled or as-required basis, the average "sleep" current is a key design factor. The ZL70100 radio transceiver contains an innovative ultra low-power wake-up system with an average current demand of just 200 nA (nanoamps).

The ZL70100 supports industry-leading transmission rates of 800 kb/s for raw data and 500 kb/s for usable data, while consuming less than 5 mA (milliamps) of supply current while active. With the ability to aggressively duty-cycle the radio transceiver, the ZL70100 allows implanted devices to quickly transmit large amounts of patient health and device performance data with minimum impact on the battery life of the implanted device.

The highly integrated ZL70100 chip requires just two external components excluding antenna matching, allowing manufacturers to use circuit substrate space savings to increase battery size and support advanced functionality while also lowering BoM (Bill of Material) costs.

The industrial-grade ZL70100 transceiver chip for base stations is the first device in a product platform designed specifically to meet the performance, power and size requirements of implanted communication systems. Qualification of the same transceiver chip for implantable applications is currently underway, and this device will be available later this year. The ZL70100 transceiver chip is available now in a 48-pin QFN (quad flat no-lead) package and as bare die. The device is fully supported by an evaluation board and reference design.

For over 30 years, Zarlink Semiconductor has delivered semiconductor solutions that drive the capabilities of voice, enterprise, broadband and wireless communications. The company's success is built on its technology strengths including voice and data networks, consumer and ultra low-power communications, and high-performance analogue.

Leslie Versweyveld

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