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Silicon Labs Takes New Step Forward in Heart Rate Monitoring
Wearable Tech World Feature Article
January 11, 2016
Silicon Labs Takes New Step Forward in Heart Rate Monitoring
By Steve Anderson
Contributing Writer

Heart rate monitors are a huge part of healthcare, as they provide a real-time view into the primary engine of advanced life. Silicon Labs (News - Alert) is steering the heart rate monitor in an exciting new direction, using some impressive technology to make it not only more mobile, but simpler as well.

Silicon Labs took several key components and brought them together to form a new force in mobile heart rate monitoring (HRM), the Si1144. It starts with an optical sensor module that works on a minimum of power to carry out its function, and then brings in an EFM32 microcontroller using an HRM algorithm developed at Silicon Labs itself. Built into the system is an optical sensor, a green LED, a set of LED drivers that allow for two extra external LEDs, control logic systems and an analog-to-digital converter (ADC (News - Alert)) system.

With all of these tools in place, the Si1144 can actually track weak blood flow with about the same capability as a unit worn directly on the chest itself. Better still, it can work with two separate algorithms, allowing it to handle stable HRM as readily as it handles HRM involving motion by connecting to an accelerometer. It also boasts a lot less power consumption, making it a great choice for wearable devices by contributing to better battery life.

Silicon Labs' new combination is particularly potent, and that makes it a force to be reckoned with in the larger market. The weak blood flow monitoring is especially useful; formerly, HRM was mostly a chest-based affair, but with better wrist-mounted monitors like those Silicon Labs is offering, it's a lot easier to get that connection on the wrist. That makes it more accessible, and more likely to be used than if the only real option were a chest-mounted unit. Better yet, HRM systems are being incorporated into a growing number of devices; it's not just commercial fitness tracking systems that benefit from HRM enhancements. It's being built into fitness equipment in gyms or at home, it's being included in bathroom scales, and it's also being frequently used as part of a hospital or nursing home's repertoire to do the best job of tracking patient health. It can even be a component of a home-based health care system; since heart rate is directly connected to so many conditions and serves as a general indicator of physical health, tracking and reporting it effectively becomes key to patient monitoring.

Versatile systems tend to do well in the market, and there's little doubt that Silicon Labs' new Si1144 module has versatility and to spare. It should go a long way in a market eager for new healthcare advances, and give us all a little more peace of mind when it comes to health and fitness.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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