Samsung’s new Bio-Processor knows more about you than you do

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With the rapid growth in wearables, and the resulting variety of “quantified-self”

applications, it was only a matter of time before chip vendors started developing

custom VLSI to shorten development cycles and decrease cost for consumer

hardware vendors. Samsung announced what it calls the Industry’s first Smart Bio-Processor.

This all-in-one chip can not only monitor heart rate, but body fat, skeletal muscle mass,

heart rhythm, skin temperature, and stress level.


Versatile sensing integrated on-chip

Samsung’s Bio-processor collects and analyzes a wide-variety of health dataEarly

fitness and health-monitoring devices depended almost entirely on heart rate monitoring.

But as applications have become more sophisticated, the need for recording other

bio-metric data has increased. In particular, Samsung has also integrated

Analog Front Ends (AFEs) for bio-electrical impedance and analysis (BIA),

photoplethysmogram (PPG), electrocardiogram (ECG), skin temperature, and galvanic skin

response (GSR). Similar to the way advance image processing chips integrate a variety

of application-specific and general purpose components, the Samsung Bio-processor also

integrates microcontroller units (MCU), a power management integrated circuit (PMIC),

a digital signal processor (DSP), and eFlash memory into a single package.


Multiple reference platforms also launched

Samsung is also making reference designs for wrist bands, boards, and patch-type devices

available to OEMs. They are planning to ship the Bio-Processor to customers in volume

sometime in the first half of 2016. Samsung sees the availability of the new chip as

enabling new applications, in addition to allowing more efficient wearables.

According to Ben K. Hur, Vice President of marketing, System LSI business at Samsung

Electronics: “Samsung’s Bio-Processor, which can process five different biometric signals,

is the most versatile health and fitness monitoring chip available on the market today

and is expected to open up many new health-based service options for our customers.”


High-powered, but low power consumption

Samsung believes its Bio-processor will greatly reduce the power requirements of

wearablesAccording to Samsung’s product catalog, the chip has 512KB of Flash,

256KB of RAM, and features a Cortex M4 CPU. By integrating these processing components

with the analog sensing circuitry, the Bio-processor should greatly reduce power

consumption in health-monitoring and fitness applications, as shown by the accompanying

chart provided by Samsung. The integrated unit is also only one-quarter of the size of

the discrete components it replaces.


The combination of low power, small size, and integrated processing should help enable

more compact, less-expensive wearables, with increased functionality and longer

battery life. We’ll be meeting with Samsung’s Bio-processor product team at CES this week,

and will be reporting on any additional information we get. For now, Samsung says the part

is in production, although its product catalog still shows it as under development.