Interview

Spearheading Innovation : Dr. Biswadip Mitra, Texas Instruments (India), India

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Dr. Biswadip (Bobby) Mitra has been with Texas Instruments for over 20 years and is the Managing Director of Texas Instruments (India). In this role, he leads all of TI’s R&D, Sales and Marketing activities in India.

Rated the most innovative company in India, with over 570 patents filed in the USA so far from the India R&D Center to its credit – the highest amongst all technology companies in the country – Texas Instruments India is driving Analog and Digital Signal Processing innovations for applications such as Industrial Electronics, Video Appliances, Medical Electronic Devices, Automotive Electronics, Energy, Security & Surveillance, Wireless, etc.

 


Q. How do you gauge the potential of the medical market for Texas Instruments, and what are your plans for India?

A. I would like to draw some parallels before I proceed to discuss the scope of the medical electronics market itself. Semiconductor chip technology has really revolutionised the world of communications over the last decade. We have seen what semiconductor chips have done towards making cell phones more powerful, application rich and affordable. If we contrast this with the role of semiconductors in the medical field, we realise that we have not even scratched the surface. We at Texas instruments (TI) see this as a great opportunity. We think that the critical role that semiconductors played earlier in the field of communications can be replicated in the medical field in the next 10 years.

The semiconductor market for medical electronics devices for 2007 was USD 2.7 billion globally. Estimates for 2013-14 are USD 4.5 – 5 billion according to Databeans. Since the market is very fragmented and diverse, there are opportunities that will be larger and faster growing than others, e.g. blood glucose monitors are growing at a 15% CAGR. Within the ultrasound market, portable equipment is forecast to grow from 17% market share today to 27% market share by 2012. In the future, we will also see implantable devices developing as an area of high growth.

TI is helping shape electronics to revolutionise healthcare. TI’s expertise across analog and digital technologies, and ability to address the imaging, data conversion, power management and connectivity requirements, helps our customers put innovative medical electronics systems into the hands of more people. Collaborating with our customers, and universities, TI is building a community for investing in new ideas to advance electronics that serve the growing healthcare needs. Medical electronics manufacturers are applying TI’s semiconductor technologies in a great variety of areas that will enhance the accessibility and quality of healthcare.

TI has a large team of 1400 people in India engaged in R&D as well as Sales and Marketing activities. TI was adjudged one of the most innovative companies in India last year by NASSCOM. Engineers from TI India have till date filed over 570 patents in the US; so our focus on innovation has been very strong. We have been present in India for over 20 years, but what is new is the focus in the last 2-3 years on the India semiconductor market, in which the medical electronics sector is high in our focus.

“We have been present in India for over 20 years, but what is new is the focus in the last 2-3 years on the India semiconductor market, in which the medical electronics sector is high in our focus.”

Q.
What would you say are Texas Instrument’s key focus areas in the medical market in India?

A. TI will focus on four key areas in the medical market in India. Consumer Medical- Included in this segment are portable devices such as digital thermometers, blood glucose monitors, blood pressure monitors, insulin pumps, heart rate monitors, digital hearing aids, etc. This area also includes the growing trend for health and wellness related medical equipment like electronic exercise monitoring.

Medical Imaging- The medical imaging market is a key growth area within the medical market with application areas such as ultrasound, which are highly benefiting from semiconductor capabilities to bring higher performance, lower power and smaller size. Further application areas are CT, MRI, X-Ray, etc.

Diagnostic, Patient Monitoring and Therapy – This market segment includes applications such as ECG, EEG, blood oxygen (pulse oximeter), defibrillators and implantable devices.

Medical Instruments – This segment includes laboratory equipment, dialysis machines, analytical instruments, surgical instruments, dental instruments, etc., as well as bionics.
 
We will also focus on microcontrollers, critical for lowering power consumption in portable equipment, and also wireless technology, particularly for patient monitoring in remote areas through telemedicine. We are looking at how we can combine the microcontroller and wireless technology to develop devices that can be worn by recuperating patients in their homes to monitor their health and transfer the data through wireless means to their doctor in the hospital.

Q. Kindly throw some light on the R&D strategy and key innovations in India.

A. There are two parts in our innovation strategy; one, which I am personally very excited about, is innovating with our customers. So we are working closely with a number of product manufacturers and helping them in their innovation. We also get useful insights on products of the future from healthcare providers.

The second part is innovating with universities. Today, we are associated with over 700 leading engineering colleges around the country.

The School of Medical Science & Technology (SMST) at IIT Kharagpur, with whom TI is associated to conduct research in the field of medical electronics, is a very good example, as the researchers out there are mostly medical doctors. This is a big advantage in view of the challenges we face in India to take healthcare to the remote areas. These doctors are able to understand both technology and medicine at the same time.

Q. How do you foresee the future of TI in the medical market?

A. TI has been selling products to the medical electronics market for many years, but last year, the company started giving more focus by putting dedicated resources in place. We see an important growth opportunity in this market in the coming years and are committed to increasing innovation of medical electronics and helping shape technology to improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare.

To address the growing challenges of the medical device market with rising healthcare costs and increased demand in emerging economies, our strategy is three-fold.

Analog and digital catalog portfolio: We are providing coordinated solutions for Medical applications out of TI’s existing product portfolio – the full range of semiconductors from building blocks to complete solutions – based on innovative DSP and Analog technologies, deep applications knowledge for targeted medical end equipment, and a worldwide and local support infrastructure. Our portfolio includes data converters, amplifiers, power management, interface, mixed-signal and logic products, as well as products from our DSP processor (high-performance and low-power), microcontroller, Digital Light Processing and Wireless portfolios.

Application-specific products: We are working with customers to design application-specific products that are finely tuned to their signal processing, low power and wireless connectivity requirements. Focus areas for application-specific products are signal chain products, wireless connectivity and implantable devices. Furthermore, TI provides global manufacturing strength, which are important attributes to the medical device industry.

Investment in the future: To ensure that we are offering leading-edge devices targeted directly at the current and future needs of our customers, we are investing in innovation, partnering with venture companies and working closely with universities around the globe. In the universities sector, TI committed USD15 million to medical electronics research worldwide last year. We are helping to drive standards through close involvement with the respective standards’ bodies. One thing that is unique from a technology point of view in medical equipment is that it is a cross-disciplinary area. One needs analog chips as well as digital chips, software and embedded systems, and also digital signal processing. TI formed a worldwide medical business unit last year to address this industry. This has helped in focusing on areas that offer opportunities for research and innovation in the medical electronics field.

Q. How has your engagement with the medical technology companies in India been? What are the challenges and opportunities you see in collaborating with them?

A. An interesting, but little known fact is that there is a large number of innovative, home-grown medical electronics companies in India, designing and manufacturing medical equipment in Tier II and III cities. These companies require application support, and TI with its large portfolio of products – nearly 40,000 in number – plays a very effective role as their partner in innovation. For example, when a medical electronics company designs an ultrasound system, TI application engineers work closely with that company’s design engineers on the semiconductor solutions.

We worked with some medical electronics companies in India to develop our analog front end chip AFE5805 that integrates several parts such as the amplifier, Analog-to-Digital and Digital-to-Analog data converters, etc into one chip. This technology actually helped in reducing the cost of the ultrasound machine. By being able to offer the industry’s lowest power, smallest size and lowest noise features, the AFE5805 brings superior image quality to portable ultrasound systems, a market where we are seeing a lot of potential.
Future devices in the AFE58xx family will address specific requirements in all segments of the ultrasound market.

Within telemedicine too, there is a requirement of high definition video for which we have chip solutions. The next challenge is to enable the systems in the telemedicine centre to “talk” to each other. Some of them would connect wirelessly and some through wires. So this requires working with a number of OEMs to develop a complete telemedicine
solution.

Q. What do you think are the key technological revolutions required in the field of medicine? And how does TI propose to be a part of it?

A. Technology-wise, low-power solutions will make the single biggest impact. In fact, at TI, we are focused on moving from low power to ‘no power’ technology. Over the last few years, a number of features have been added to portable electronic devices without increasing the size of the battery. This has been made possible by making all the systems inside the portable applications consume less power to do more through active power management. TI plays an important role in both line powered and portable power applications that efficiently convert power at the point of use. Medical electronics manufacturers are applying TI semiconductor technologies in a great variety of areas that will enhance the accessibility and quality of healthcare.

Patient monitoring and telemedicine will enable healthcare services to be cost-effectively administered to remote populations and will even allow medical services to be more pervasive in urban settings. Increasingly, we see devices becoming portable, wearable or implantable with these markets being important growth areas. Implantable devices, for example, will move from being predominantly therapeutic to also providing preventive solutions.

With the increased personalisation and portability of healthcare, we see interest in personal medical applications, such as heart rate monitors with wireless networking capabilities. There is significant innovation taking place in the Medical Imaging market with equipment developing in two key areas – highest performance in high-end devices; and smaller form factors for more portable mid-range and low-end devices for remote use.

Overall we think we are just at the beginning of a development in the medical electronics market that could go through a similar evolution as the PC market in the 1980s and the communications market in the 1990s – both developments were driven by semiconductor technology making devices smaller while consuming lower power and providing higher performance. We feel well positioned to be a key driver of this evolution and are looking forward to seeing the medical market develop over the coming years.

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