Relying on healthcare wearables

IECQ meets all requirements for safe, green electronic components

By Claire Marchand

The doctor-patient relationship has evolved tremendously in the past decade or so. There was a time when any medical exam had to be performed at a hospital or a doctor’s practice. The recent and rapid emergence of home healthcare technologies is slowly changing the whole medical landscape.

Withings wireless blood pressure monitor
Home blood pressure monitor (Withings)

Monitor health data anywhere anytime

People suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure or a heart condition may find solace in these developments. They can monitor their health data on a daily basis while at home or in the office, share it with their physician and lead as normal a life as their ailment permits. 

Chronic disease management is only one aspect of medical electronics. Post-operative care and assisted living for the elderly or those living in remote and rural areas also benefit from these new technologies. 

The first electrocardiogram (ECG) machine, invented by Willem Einthoven 100 years ago, weighed more than 270 kg. Today, wearable cardiac monitors may weigh about 100 grams. Frequent travellers who need to monitor their blood pressure daily have devices that easily fit in a suitcase. People who have to take medication regularly can rely on electronic pillboxes that remind them when to ingest which pill. And so on… 

As with any electronic equipment, all those devices would not exist without electronic components. To accompany the rapid technological developments of recent years, electronic component manufacturers have been designing products that are smarter, much smaller and offer enhanced performance and functionality. 

Electronics inside

Sensors, connectors, resistors, capacitors, semiconductors, diodes, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), organic LEDs (OLEDs), microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) are just some of the numerous components that are widely used in all kinds of electronic equipment and devices, including medical devices and wearables. For them to work smoothly, they have to have high-quality electronics inside. One faulty component can have disastrous effects. 

IECQ ensures product safety and reliability

Electronic component manufacturers and suppliers have a very powerful tool at their disposal to ensure that their products are safe, reliable and meet the strictest requirements: IECQ, the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components. 

As a worldwide approval and certification system covering the supply of electronic components, assemblies and associated materials and processes, IECQ tests and certifies components using quality assessment specifications based on IEC International Standards. 

The numerous types of electronic component covered by IECQ are used in all kinds of technologies, from the smallest device to the most complex piece of equipment. At present, there are eight families of components certified by IECQ: 

  • Active components, including integrated circuits;
  • Electromagnetic components;
  • Electromechanical components;
  • Electro-optic components;
  • Hybrid integrated circuits;
  • Passive components;
  • Printed wiring boards;
  • Wire, cables and connectors;
  • Assemblies;
  • Component Modules;
  • Ancillary items e.g. Insulator / shielding materials, heat transfer compounds and materials etc.;
  • Electronic part enclosures and housing materials. 

Hazardous substances: Facilitating proof of compliance

Concern for the environment and the need to eliminate hazardous waste prompted IECQ to devise a new scheme to help electronic component suppliers prove that their products comply with requirements to be free of hazardous substances. 

Since the launch of the programme in 2005, the IECQ Hazardous Substances Process Management (HSPM) scheme has grown tremendously. Many countries around the world have passed legislation restricting the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic products. 

For instance the European Union (EU) has adopted Directives restricting the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. These Directives have become law in all 28 EU member countries. 

Manufacturers using IECQ HSPM Certification are sure to meet EU requirements set out in the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS) Directive, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive and the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation. 

Through IECQ HSPM certification, electronic component manufacturers and suppliers can demonstrate that their electrical and electronic components and assemblies meet hazardous-substance-free specific local, national and international requirements. 

In the same way, manufacturers of medical devices and wearables who use electronic components that bear IECQ HSPM certification can advertize their products as free of all hazardous materials. 

Competitive edge

All IECQ certificates are recognized in all IECQ member countries and beyond, thus helping to reduce costs and time to market and eliminating the need for multiple testing. 

More information: www.iecq.org

Gallery
Portable ECG Healthcare portable ECG (Photo: E-Health)
Withings wireless blood pressure monitor Home blood pressure monitor (Withings)
e-pill dispenser This Electronic Medication Organizer and Dispenser (EMOD) was developed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Photo: Rehabilitation Engineering Design Projects, UNC)