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Enabling secure wireless medical devices with MCU

10 Jul 2013  | Jerome Schang

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The FRAM technology allows continuous data logging options through its endurance (1015 write cycles). Bluetooth low energy built into a blood glucose meter offers several advantages in the management of diabetes. Data from the blood glucose meter could be uploaded frequently to the patient's cell phone, then sent to the physician's computer for review via a patient portal such as the S3 portal. An analysis of blood glucose measurement trends would allow the physician to spot persistent out-of-normal-range episodes much earlier than the typical quarterly reviews, enabling the physician to alter the patient's diet on a weekly basis.

Bluetooth low energy is capable of communicating with a web-based application without using a cell phone or PC by using a Bluetooth router – a device that acts as a "gateway" between the Bluetooth low energy device and the Internet. The web-based application can also send messages back to the Bluetooth low energy device.

To enable further diabetic control, continuous glucose monitoring offers patients and physicians real-time data to proactively manage the condition. Continuous glucose monitoring relies on frequent measurement (for example, 288 glucose measurements every 24h). One FDA-approved continuous glucose monitoring device uses a tiny glucose-sensor inserted under the skin of the abdomen. The system automatically records an average glucose value every five minutes for up to 72 hours.

Continuous glucose monitoring with wireless capability also has major benefits to type 1 diabetes sufferers. Since they are more prone to short-term complications, such as low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia) which can occur between routine finger prick measurements, and leading to a coma if not treated rapidly, BLE-capable devices could save lives. With frequent measurements, the provider or patient is able to set thresholds that warn the patient of dangerous levels enabling real-time treatment.

Both the traditional blood glucose monitoring methods and the more recent movement towards continuous glucose monitoring require regular storage of glucose measurements and protection of patient data during storage and transmission. TI's ultra-low power MSP430FR59xx microcontrollers offer the necessary features – integrated FRAM for glucose measurement storage as well as integrated security acceleration for encryption of sensitive patient information – to help medical device manufacturers design products that keep patient data secure during storage or wireless transmission.

Furthermore, the ultra-low power performance enables the capability for some applications to operate from harvested energy, such as body heat, enabling true continuous monitoring independent of batteries or other power sources. The combination of MSP430FR59xx microcontrollers, TI connectivity solutions, and high performance analogue front ends (AFEs) enables medical device manufacturers to use such products to design a variety of implementations that include data logging.

As discussed throughout this paper, the trends of wireless communication and security for medical and fitness applications are becoming more important. Patients can share medical information and telehealth data with stakeholders outside of a clinical setting. Data exchange with multiple telehealth systems is instrumental.

These platforms will further enable telehealth vendors or service providers to deliver more effective chronic disease management and information exchange toolsets across the entire telehealth ecosystem, and will allow patients to actively manage their own long term care.

About the author
Jerome Schang is MSP430 Strategic Marketing at Texas Instruments Inc.

To download the PDF version of this article, click here.

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