Tell us about your company and the work you are doing.
Maxim Integrated is 35 years old. One company, with over 30 years in Silicon Valley - it's pretty rare! However, you can also imagine what the employees are like to work with. It gets to be a pretty fun and interesting place because everyone comes in with different ideas and experience.
The Industrial and Health Care business unit is addressing the issue that health care cost is growing as the population is aging and graying. Around 10% of the world GDP is now required for health care. It does not matter if you have got the U.K. NHS or the U.S. health system, neither of them are working efficiently or well enough.
The medical health market is really ripe for some kind of technology disruption. There is a shift in the mindset. People are wanting to be more aware of their health and often want continuous measurements to monitor it. If you are wearing a sports watch you are already used to doing those kind of things. The point of that is you get continuous measurements. Once you get those continuous measurements you can start to make predictive analyses. For example, "if you carry on like this in three years time you run the risk of being pre-diabetic, or you increase your risk of cardiovascular disease by 10%. Make some lifestyle changes, don't drink so much beer and exercise a bit more." All of those things can help you live longer.
The younger generation are used to the smart phone being a center point - all of their electronics communicate to their smart phone, go into the cloud and keep collecting data.That is what we are seeing at the front end. Then on the back end, if you are unfortunate enough to actually have a chronic disease there is also a desire to allow coninuous measurement here too. Rather than you relying on a nurse coming in to check your blood pressure you can do it yourself.
Nurse visits, hospital visits, doctors appointments - these are all process flows that end up being expensive, take hospital time, and actually are not very efficient. Why is it you have to go to the doctor and you have to wait to see them when they're running late? You have to commute to go there, you wait to see them, have the appointment, get a diagnosis and then you go somewhere else.
One other thing that is almost a familiar story is remote monitoring. Around 20-30 years ago people were talking about telemedicine for Africa. The concept was: there is a huge area that very few doctors have to cover, why not allow remote monitoring. If you are able to carry out telemonitoring, all of the sensing equipment that you are already wearing is gathering that data and the doctor can immediately see the data. They can then make some better judgements.
We are definitely seeing the growth in this area.
What does this mean for Maxim?
What that means for Maxim and the health care sensors, is that it is all about continuous monitoring, not just the one time measurement. If you have wearable products, you can collect data in between doctor visits and store it in the Cloud.
From a Maxim point of view we focus on biopotential, so these are analog front ends that will be measuring basic heart signals. You can also look at bio impedance and pace detection, to see if there is already a pacemaker built in and how this effects the heart signals.
Temperature sensing is also important. It does not seem that exciting initially, but if you can measure it to 0.1 degree accuracy you can start to see if someone is going to get a fever spike or how quickly that fever is coming down.
We can also use optical sensors - these are the sensors in the watches with an LED that shines into the skin and you measure what is refracted back.
All of these kind of health care sensors require a long battery life, good clinical performance, a small size and high accuracy. All these portable products want to work off the smallest battery and they want to last as long as possible. Maxim has a long history in power management, so has plenty of experience in this area.
Maxim is enabling a healthier world, and recently announced two evaluation development platforms which incorporate some of its ICs. The first one is the MAX-HEALTH-BAND, and this looks like any other sport-band related product. The key difference between our products and the others is that all of the data that gets measured is given back to the customers and they get to keep it. With most other brands, you cannot have direct access to the data - it is kept by the company. Being able to have that data provides new types of customers and allows Maxim to carry out different analysis.
The other product we have here is the MAX-ECG-MONITOR. It uses our ECG chip and we sell it with either a chest strap or with electrode patches. If you are looking to carry out ECG monitoring for a heart related disease, usually a cardio specialist will have to put a halter on you and for a few hours you will walk around with this piece of equipment on. It is really uncomfortable and it is a very narrow window of analysis. If you could tape something on you and for 21 days straight collect a lot of data, then that allows you to see exactly when the problem occurs; even if you are asleep!