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Press Release

Costa Rica Creates First Microcontroller for Medical Applications Microcircuit Completely Designed and Developed in the Country

MAY 7th 2019

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica, May 7, 2019 -- The DCILab of the Electronic Engineering School at the Technological Institute of Costa Rica (TEC by its Spanish acronym), has created the first RISC, 32-bit microcontroller completely designed and developed in Costa Rica, for a microcircuit with medical applications.

A microcontroller is a microprocessor which, in addition to its processing units, has input-output interfaces and dedicated units for operation and sensing, as well as internal memory to perform specific functions.

The microcontroller’s official name is SIWA, which means "ancestral wisdom" in Cabécar, one of Costa Rica’s indigenous ethnic languages. It is based on a RISC-V, 32-bit architecture, similar to those used in smart phones (such as the ARM processor) and this nucleus can be complemented with different interfaces for different applications.

The DCILab of TEC Costa Rica began using the device for medical applications, such as a cardiac stimulator; but it has announced that it may create new versions of SIWA with applications in other fields such as industrial automation, variable monitoring, image processing, among others.

The design is based on an open RISC programming architecture and will be used as a control unit for a cardiac stimulator developed by the Catholic University of Uruguay.

Alfonso Chacón, of the Electronic Engineering School at TEC, said that: "This milestone not only proves the existence in Costa Rica of the necessary technological capacity to initiate joint developments in the microcircuits area with the country’s high-tech industry, but also lays the foundation for a national microelectronics industry." 

SIWA is an integrated electronic device in a 180-nanometer CMOS technology.

Potential in medical industry
Today's cutting-edge implantable medical devices demand more intelligence to apply algorithms that monitor biomedical signals, and even to allow doctors to obtain patient data. 

The more integrated the system is, the greater the reliability and safety of devices implanted in patients, in addition to improving the device's parameters for size and electrical power consumption. This is very different to what is currently done in most systems on the market, since they apply separate devices interconnected among themselves.

Jorge Sequeira, Managing Director of CINDE, said that: "Costa Rica is a hub of medical technologies in Latin America, hosting global leaders in Life Sciences and Digital Technologies. This convergence enables the country to create and test new solutions, enhancing the development and performance of medical devices, which are already the country's top export product, for US$3.3 billion in 2018. It is projected that these will grow at an annual rate of 15%, reaching US$5 billion in 2021."

Costa Rica’s life sciences industry consists of 72 multinational companies that employ 24,600 people. 7 out of 10 world's largest cardiovascular companies operate in Costa Rica.

CONTACT: For more press information, Carlos Morales, CINDE, 2201-2830 / cmorales@cinde.org; or Johnny Gómez, TEC, 2550-9194 / jgomez@tec.ac.cr