Interview with Janek from Speckled Computing

Energy Micro talked to Janek Mann, a hardware engineer at the Centre for Speckled Computing, about a range of innovative products equipped with the EFM32 Gecko microcontrollers.

Speckled Computing is a research center at the University of Edinburgh specialized in health care, environmental monitoring, and digital media. The center aims to create new concepts in information technology and linking this material with the digital worlds. As part of this, Janek and the team decided to use EFM32 microcontroller families across all their new platforms.

Let’s take a look at the some of the devices that Janek’s team has designed, and the reasons why they chose the ARM Cortex-M3 EFM32 over alternative microcontrollers.

RESpeck

RESpeck is a wireless respiratory patch which enables doctors to monitor patients remotely. The device is set in a custom-made casing for better user comfort. RESpeck measures respiratory flow and rate, and includes various sensors such as an accelerometer, temperature and light sensors. With its built-in battery the RESpeck can run up to a full year without compromising any performance. Janek worked with another researcher, Andrew Bates, on this product, and Andrew developed the respiratory monitoring algorithm running in the EFM32.

“The reason why we chose the EFM32 microcontrollers for this project, was because it was easier to achieve ultra-low current levels than other alternatives, which required more cumbersome and explicit configurations,” Janek told us.

Orient 4

Orient 4 is an inertial motion-capture device which monitors the movement of objects or people. The device is comprised of EFM32GG990F1024 as a processor, 2.4GHz radio, and a radio amplifier for extended communications range. An IR temp. Sensor allows the device to measure temperature from a distance, while the gyroscope senses angular velocity and changes in orientation. A magnetometer and accelerometer are used to dynamically stabilize the orientation calculated. All these sensors produce large volumes of data, so team included the option to save data through a micro-SD card.

Prospeckz5h

Prospeckz5h is devised to monitor the movement of animals in challenging environments with built-in GPS module for finding a current location. The device is also protected by water and shock-proof casing for outdoor environment. Prospeckz5h is also run by EFM32GG990F1024 and can be powered by solar charger.

Janek added; “It has been very helpful to use the library and tool chain supported by Energy Micro, especially in terms of open source and cross platform tools for educational purpose.” He also mentioned that the devices are currently being used in the major Scottish art schools and at the University of Edinburgh. In addition, the RESPeck devices are being tested in local hospitals before market introduction.

It was interesting for Energy Micro to learn about the new technology for improving human monitoring systems from Janek, and also to see how the EFM32 products are used for educational and research purposes. Janek lastly sent his greetings to D.K.Arvind, the director of the center, for supporting the Specks for Design project.

You can find more details of “Specks for Design” here: http://downloads.specknet.org/DI/Specks_for_Design_Informatics.pdf

Want to be even more inspired? Check out recent articles at Speckled Computing: http://www.specknet.org/workshops/10th-workshop-in-speckled-computing-2012

And a news report on the trials of RESPeck: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19621115

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