Atec Inc.: Engineering Assistive Devices with Maxim Biosensors

Marty Stone combined his deep design engineering experience with his desire to assist people with severe disabilities to found Assistive Technology Engineering and Consultation, Inc. (Atec). Based in Hugo, Minnesota, and incorporated in 1996, Atec designs and consults with a wide variety of industries and develops assistive technology solutions, including wearable switches; BLE transmitters; robotic arms; mobility aids; computer, phone, and tablet-based switch interfaces; and more.

Challenges

  • Biosensing ICs with low power consumption and small solution size
  • Development and prototype time and cost

Solutions

Benefits

  • Met power and size requirements, while saving 4 months of time per design

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Atec develops a variety of assistive technology devices, including the various switches shown in these images.

Challenges

Many of Atec’s products are battery-powered and compact, so the underlying technology must be power efficient and small. Stone has been working with Maxim ICs for some time, so while developing two forthcoming products, he turned to Maxim for his biosensing technology needs.

Solution and Benefits

One of Atec’s soon-to-be-updated products is the “Bioswitch 3,” which is designed for those with severe mobility issues and allows control with eye and muscle movements. The switch uses electrooculography (EOG) and electromyography (EMG)—reading eye and muscle movements, respectively—to allow the user to activate communication devices, computers, games, toys, and more. For this design, Stone is using the MAX30001 single-channel, integrated biopotential and bioimpedance analog front-end (AFE). By providing a single, integrated sensor, the MAX30001 saves development time and board space, while also meeting the design’s power requirements. An earlier version of Atec’s bioswitch was larger than most cell phones, while the new iteration in development is smaller than a thumb drive. It is also about 4x more energy efficient, as the new version will be powered by two AAA batteries compared to a 9V battery for the previous model.

The other in-progress design that Atec is developing is “Nightingale,” a wearable device that monitors heart rate, temperature, motion, blood-oxygen (SpO2) levels, and muscle movement for health indicators, monitoring, and control. This product will leverage the Health Sensor Platform 2.0, or MAXREFDES101. The Health Sensor Platform 2.0 integrates the MAX86141 photophlethysmography AFE sensor, the MAX30001, the MAX30205 human body temperature sensor, the MAX32630 microcontroller, the MAX20303 power management IC, and a 6-axis accelerometer/gyroscope. The complete platform also includes the MAX32664 biometric sensor hub with embedded heart-rate algorithm. Other options on the market, he said, feature the low power consumption but with larger solution sizes. “You have a solution that is really quite excellent,” Stone said of the Health Sensor Platform 2.0. “I was able to leverage everything. All the sensors are Maxim sensors.”

He is also planning to incorporate a Maxim fuel gauge into the SpO2 monitoring device. Since his product may be used in regions of the world where power is spotty, having an accurate fuel gauge can assure that the user and care giver will feel confident over whether the device is working or not.

Stone noted that he also appreciates the development tools available from Maxim for their comprehensiveness. “These development tools save me probably on the order of four months per design,” he said.