Medical Design Briefs - December 2022 - 34

Zero-Power
Inertial Switches:
Moving Beyond the Limits of
Power and Size
M
34
iniaturized sensor technology
allows engineers
to build more functionality
into less space than
ever before; but increasingly
complex features require more battery
power, which takes up more space.
How do design engineers decide which
comes first, performance or portability?
The world's smallest inertial switch may
offer the best of both worlds.
Selecting the right microelectromechanical
system (MEMS) for an application
depends on the role of the sensor. If
the purpose of a device is to detect shock
or impact, an inertial sensor is an ideal
option. In this application, the sensor
acts as a motion switch activated by a specific
g-force. When the g-force threshold
is detected, the switch wakes up and initiates
a new process. In a medical alert
system, for example, the impact of a patient's
fall is the signal, and alerting a
caretaker is the new process.
Allocating the Power Budget
To accommodate smaller devices, engineers
are thinking about battery power
earlier in the design process. Essential
components like sensors, processors,
and displays all add to digital overhead,
consuming much of the power budget
even when operated at the lowest possible
current. Dimming a screen or slowing
processing speed also helps conserve
power, but the most effective method is
simply turning off components that
don't need to run continuously.
A zero-power motion switch is a builtin
power saver. By remaining effectively
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off, or passive, until a defined signal is
received, the switch has no impact on
the power budget. Battery life is conserved
for components that must remain
awake to monitor for a signal, such as the
presence (or absence) of human speech.
Accelerometers are an example of an
always- on component (see the sidebar,
" Selecting the Right Motion Sensor: Accelerometer
vs.
Zero-Power
Motion
Switch " ). They consume battery power
quickly by continuously processing data.
For devices like pacemakers, this function
is critical, but for many applications
nonstop data collection isn't required or
helpful. In these cases, accelerometers
consume more of the power budget than
their value warrants.
Passive motion switches respond only
to relevant signals. If lower force or
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Medical Design Briefs - December 2022

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Medical Design Briefs - December 2022 - COV1A
Medical Design Briefs - December 2022 - COV1B
Medical Design Briefs - December 2022 - Cov1
Medical Design Briefs - December 2022 - Cov2
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