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Expanding the personal healthcare market with advanced optoelectronic devices

NJR’s optical semiconductor devices are used in numerous fields, ranging from industrial equipment to consumer devices and cars. However, they are attracting especial attention in the medical and healthcare fields as key components of healthcare products for personal use.

High-precision optoelectronic devices for new healthcare markets

The demand for personal healthcare products is increasing. It is obviously helpful, for preventative medicine, if we can see for ourselves any changes in our physical condition day by day. These products can also provide detailed monitoring during physical exercise to help prevent dehydration and heat stroke. NJR’s optical semiconductor devices are being adopted as sensors capable of highly accurate measurement, regardless of location, by manufacturers of assembled products who are committed to developing this new healthcare field.
A recent product of this type is a wristwatch-type terminal that uses light to irradiate blood vessels. From changes in the amount of reflected light, it can measure pulse rate and the amount of oxygen in the blood (SpO2: peripheral capillary oxygen saturation). You can thus monitor your sleeping, your exercise load while jogging, and your general fitness. At the heart of this wearable terminal, which make it so easy to check your health, is an NJR optoelectronic device that combines an LED light source and photosensitive element in a single package.
The reason why NJR’s device was chosen for this application is its high measurement accuracy, which is not dependent on the user or location. Unlike conventional medical devices used in clinics and hospitals, a go-anywhere wearable terminal is more likely to be influenced by ambient light noise. NJR’s optoelectronic device is engineered with optical filter characteristics that eliminate noise caused by ambient light and enable very precise signal detection.
To develop a product such as this, which is destined for the global market, it is important to take account of differences in skin color. NJR has collected data from subjects of all skin colors to ensure the sensor can measure accurately whoever is using it.
NJR’s optical semiconductor devices are contributing to the development of wearable devices that are revolutionizing our approach to healthcare. NJR is also playing a part in the development of various new products – such as smartphones that can detect your pulse and SpO2 from your fingertip, and earphones that can monitor your health while you listen to music.

Compact, high-precision device packages

There are two ways of building an optoelectronic device into a product. The customer can procure a light-emitting element and a light-sensing element as separate parts and then assemble them into the system. Alternatively, the manufacturer can use an NJR device package that incorporates both elements.
Customers who take the latter approach and procure an NJR device put priority on reduced size. Compared with the former approach of assembling systems from individual parts, an NJR device makes it possible to pack functions into much less space. This is ideal for when developing mobile devices such as wearable terminals and smartphones. It eliminates the investment required for circuit design, as well as contributing to a significant reduction in both mounting area and development time.
Customers also appreciate the high precision with which measurements are made. This reflects the considerable expertise in optical design, circuit design, and module design that NJR has developed over many years. Good optical design means optimizing key characteristics – the wavelength of the emitted light, the sensitivity of the sensor, etc. – to suit what is being measured and the package. Good circuit design means ensuring that a series of processing circuits – for amplification of the detected signal to noise removal and digital conversion – are efficiently mounted on a single chip. And good module design requires picking the right resin to prevent light noise, and ensuring the optimal distance from the chip, depending on the product requirements. NJR possesses all this knowhow, making it possible to create an optimized module offering high measurement accuracy.

Packages to accelerate product development

Health monitoring using optoelectronics is no longer limited to a few advanced products. Consumers are coming to expect it, and many manufacturers of assembled products are trying to catch up with this burgeoning demand. They face a problem, however, when it comes to optical design.
Algorithms that compute physiological variables from light measurements can be procured easily from the market, but it takes years to determine the optimum distance and angle for measurement, and to design in-house a circuit that will correct for light noise.
What we recommend for manufacturers of assembled products who are looking to shorten development time is an NJR package that combines light-emitting and light-sensing elements with known optical characteristics. This drastically reduces turnaround time for product development. And that is why many manufacturers are already using NJR packages.
In a related approach, we now supporting the development of products that measure blood glucose and blood pressure. A single wearable terminal that can measure blood pressure and blood glucose without taking any blood could save many people from the risk of diseases such as diabetes. NJR is also planning to enter the market for medical certification kits used by medical institutions.
From personal healthcare products to professional medical equipment, NJR packages will accelerate customer product development.

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