Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

AMS wearable heart sensor measures blood pressure

Steve Rogerson
March 5, 2019

At last week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Austria Microsystems (AMS) introduced an optical sensor for continuous cardiovascular health monitoring that performs blood pressure measurement to medical-grade accuracy.
When included in the AMS VivaVita accessory design, the AS7026 provides a turnkey option for users that need a fast time to market and is supplied with a mobile app for the iOS and Android mobile operating systems.
The device provides continuous heart rate, heart rate variability, blood pressure and electrocardiography (ECG) measurements when embedded in a consumer device such as a fitness-monitoring wristband or smart watch. The combination of optical semiconductor technology with algorithms have resulted in what is claimed to be unprecedented measurement accuracy in a wearable device form factor: the blood pressure measurement accuracy of the algorithm that the device runs is rated as medical-grade B when tested according to IEEE 1708-2014.
The accuracy of the sensor’s cardiovascular measurements creates potential for consumer and lifestyle devices such as smart watches to provide valuable health-monitoring data round the clock that would normally require the use of dedicated medical equipment, often only available in a hospital or doctor’s surgery.
“By use of convenient, comfortable devices such as a wristband or watch equipped with an AS7026 sensor, consumers can become as aware of their normal blood pressure and other key heart health indicators as they are of familiar physical indicators such as height and weight,” said Reiner Jumpertz, vice president at AMS. “They can then use these data to take a more active and informed approach to personal health management and lifestyle choices.”
Consuming little power, and packaged as a complete 6.2 by 2.8mm by 1.0mm optical module, the AS7026 enables life-saving smart health monitoring to be performed round the clock by battery-powered devices. The small size of the sensor provides scope to develop applications for health monitoring technology from in-ear devices such as earphones and hearing aids to toilet seats.
The optical stack provides high sensitivity, low noise and high rejection of ambient light. This has the effect of reducing power consumption, an important attribute because of the small size of the battery in wearable and mobile devices. In addition, the optical stack achieves signal quality with every skin colour as classified in von Luschan’s chromatic scale.
The VivaVita mobile reference design developed by AMS is a production-ready, 5 by 5cm mobile accessory which shows the full range of the sensor’s capabilities, including heart rate measurement, photoplethysmographs, ECG, blood pressure measurement and vagal tone measurement.
The VivaVita was used as the reference platform for FDA certification of the blood pressure algorithm for medical use. FDA certification for the algorithm used in the AS7026 is expected to be granted in August 2019.
Engineering samples of the AS7026 and its evaluation kit are available now. Mass production starts in May 2019.