At this week’s FutureSummits, imec – a world-research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies – and Bloomlife – an imec spin-off – showcase a prototype of the world’s first wearable 5-channel electrocardiogram (ECG) chip to continuously and accurately monitor fetal heart rate and mobility, two important indicators of a baby’s wellbeing. With the development of this chip, a major hurdle has been taken in the creation of a wearable ECG system that can accurately measure the fetal ECG as early as week 20 in a woman’s pregnancy.
Pregnancy is often a time of excitement, but it also comes with uncertainty. It can feel like there are many unknowns, especially in terms of the baby’s wellbeing and during the times between doctors’
appointments. At-home pregnancy monitoring systems could take away some of that uncertainty and provide valuable insights and data.
Unfortunately, wearable solutions are typically limited to tracking maternal health parameters, spot-checking or contraction monitoring and are not providing a real-time, continuous report of a baby’s wellness.
Bloomlife’s purposely-built BeatleIC chip, which leverages imec’s unique integrated circuit (IC) technology know-how, is the only chip on the market that has all required characteristics to accurately track a fetus’ wellbeing indicators – such as heart rate and mobility – throughout the second half of a woman’s pregnancy. Existing chips either consume too much energy to be of any practical use in wearable solutions or are not capable of tracking the right fetal parameters.
The BeatleIC chip features –
• A 5-channel ECG sensor to enable simultaneous recording of all perinatal health related signals
• Low power consumption to enable long-term and continuous use (featuring a battery lifetime of approximately one week on a coin cell)
• High accuracy to enable fetal ECG data acquisition at very low amplitude levels (between 3 and 15µV peak-peak)
Eric Dy, Co-Founder/CEO at Bloomlife: “Our next step in bringing this technology to market includes a clinical trial to further validate the chip’s measurement results. And, ultimately, we plan to launch not only a consumer product – consisting of a sensor device integrated in a wearable patch and a smartphone application – but also a risk management platform that can be used by medically qualified staff. We are excited about the significant impact of these advancements as we continue to work towards our mission to bring much overdue innovation and solutions to help solve the biggest challenges in prenatal care, including preterm birth.”
“This development with Bloomlife is a concrete example of how imec’s expertise in nanoelectronics and digital technologies translates into increasingly smaller, accurate and yet more energy-efficient components that find their way in a wide variety of application areas,” adds Nick Van Helleputte, R&D manager circuit development for connected health solutions at imec. “When it comes to developing smart health solutions, in particular, imec’s research and insights in wearable technology and artificial intelligence can provide partner companies with a significant head start. Efforts like these are fully in line with our ambition to bringing wearable health technology within the reach of everyone, helping people track health parameters over extended periods of time so as to identify health risk factors and illness triggers.”
The development of the BeatleIC was partially funded by the Flanders Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (VLAIO).