Zarlink introduces (press release) the first ultra low power transceiver chip designed for personal area networks. The chip targets medical applications like wireless sensors and implanted pacemakers, defibrillators, neurostimulators and blood glucose sensors.

According to Zarlink (product specs), the high-speed chip transmits about ten times the data rate of rival products, while consuming about 20 percent of the power. The chip consumes less than 5 mA (milliamps) of supply current while active, and less than 1 mA in low power mode. When not in use, the chip goes into sleep mode, further conserving power. The chip's radio range is about 2 meters.

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. The chip talks to a gateway device that would then connect to a WLAN or wireless WAN.

Any radio application requires two transceivers. The chip released by Zarlink, the ZL70100, is for base station applications.  Qualification of the same transceiver chip for implantable applications is currently underway, and this device will be available later this year.

The chip uses the active Medical Implant Communications System (MICS) band between 402-405MHz. Established in 1999, the MICS band is an unlicensed band intended for high-speed, ultra-low power, non-voice communications to and from implanted medical devices. The chips can also be used externally supporting wireless sensors communicating to a gateway device. This external application requires the use of the 433 MHz ISM band (Word doc) intended for RFID applications.