Enabling two devices in proximity to each other to make secure data exchanges, near-field communication (NFC) technology will likely play a crucial role in medical device applications in the growing fields of home healthcare and remote patient monitoring. Yet despite their promise in these burgeoning areas, NFC-equipped devices can consume significant amounts of power, which, in turn, rapidly deplete the product’s batteries. Wielding its experience in electronics and the emerging telehealth market, Texas Instruments (TI) has responded to this problem by developing what it claims is the industry’s lowest-power, contactless, short-range communication transceiver.
|Ultra-low-power usage can double the battery life of TI’s newest NFC transceiver.|
Capable of transmitting and receiving a variety of data, the radio-frequency identification (RFID)-based TRF7970A is equipped with eight different power-saving modes ranging from less than 1 µA in power-down mode to 120 mA in full-power mode. As a result of this design, the transceiver boasts a battery life that is twice that of competitive products, according to TI. Furthermore, the low-power transceiver also accommodates a range of features, such as switch peripherals, clocks, or memory on/off.
“Enabling our customers to implement ultra-low-power applications with the TRF7970A requires not only an inherently low-power-consumption chip design, but also flexibility by offering several power-saving modes to developers that can incorporate that in their designs,” VC Kumar, manager of embedded RF at TI, explains. “Also, good RF design capability is a must, balancing [the] needs [of] high transmit power—or read range—and power consumption.”
TI’s TRF7970A transceiver supports peer-to-peer communication, card emulation, and reader/writer capability, allowing developers to create designs with faster, easier data transfers. In addition, products that incorporate the TRF7970A transceiver can configure Wi-Fi and Bluetooth sessions between devices without user interaction, as well as share and interact with feature- and content-rich data. Compliant with NFCIP-1 and NFCIP-2 standards, the transceiver can also support two crystal oscillator frequencies of 13.56 and 27.12 MHz, offering engineers increased flexibility in speed and cost options for their designs.
While it is typically associated with such activities as making payments via a smartphone, NFC technology will likely be an enabler in next-generation mobile phone–based medical applications, according to Kumar. “As one example, any patch- or sensor-based device would benefit from NFC embedded within,” he says. “There is a ready-to-use reader that can also communicate to the Internet. Think of patient test or diagnostic patches or devices that can be used at home, are cost effective to distribute, and can communicate with the doctor or healthcare provider in case of any issues.”