WELMO: A cutting edge, lung monitoring device

Silicon chips are the backbone of modern society. They are being used in everything from space to entertainment industry, continuously improving the quality of our life. But rarely does an improvement feel as important as when a product like Welmo improves something as crucial as healthcare.

Lung diseases like asthma, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are some of the leading causes of death in Europe. This is why continuous and real-time lung function monitoring is essential. Today, lung monitoring is done in hospitals, so remote areas don’t have access to quality healthcare. The devices used for monitoring the patients are bulky, expensive and difficult to operate. They also require specialized personnel.

The idea behind the WELMO project is to create a wearable system that can replace these devices and allow continuous and real-time lung work monitoring for patients with chronic lung problems in the comfort of their home! The incorporation of novel electronics in garments presents great potential for addressing these challenges. More specifically, the adoption of Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) neatly integrated in a comfortable, washable and wearable vest is the key that makes the accurate and effective (in terms of both cost and quality of life) continuous monitoring of lung diseases feasible.

Embrace the beauty of a custom ASIC design

An Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) is an integrated circuit (IC) which is designed for a particular use. In a case of Welmo project, it will be continuous and real-time lung work monitoring. Benefits are numerous, we will single out the most important:

Size, Weight and Power (SwaP) Improvement: A single ASIC device can replace a sizable list of components, drastically reducing the size and weight of an electronic assembly. Smaller signal line loads within an ASIC mean less power is spent to transfer the signals within the ASIC, so less total electrical power is needed to perform the function. This is very important for defense, aerospace, medical and wearable technology use.

Noise Reduction and Signal Integrity: When developing a custom ASIC, as circuitry becomes smaller, signals inside the ASIC communicate more easily, which reduces the overall noise inside the custom IC. However, some noise is inevitable. Any electromagnetic interference picked up by the ASIC circuitry has less total energy. The smaller size of ASIC circuitry means smaller signal line loading, so signals can communicate more easily at high speed within an ASIC than they can on a conventional PCB assembly. Smaller signal loading also means less vulnerability to ground loop or ground bounce interference. This is where good layout practice is important. Careful attention needs to be paid to: routing of power supplies, current pathways for critical analog signals, signals crossing functional section boundaries etc.

Device Reliability: Many applications including commercial aircraft, space, military avionics, automotive and medical have high reliability requirements. A single ASIC device can replace a long list of components, and greatly reduce the number of electrical connection terminals in an electronic assembly. Each connection terminal is a potential failure point, so conversion to an ASIC gives fewer solder joints to inspect, and a significant reliability improvement.

IP Protection: It is more difficult to reverse engineer an ASIC than it is to reverse engineer a discrete PCB design.

These are some of the ASIC benefits we are going to utilize to create our Wearable Electronics for Effective Lung Monitoring vest.

Working on a project like WELMO that tackles an important issue and brings comfort to those in need makes one realize why hardware engineering is such a rewarding profession. There is no better way to use our knowledge than to overcome engineering challenges on the path that will bring a higher quality of life.

Marija Rakovic

ELSYS Eastern Europe DOO