Inside the Dexcom Seven Plus Continuous Glucose Monitoring System

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A tear down reveals the innards of an increasingly popular product.

Worldwide, the population is aging as well as suffering from increasing levels of chronic illness. Increasingly, the chronically ill are encouraged to take more control of their treatment, including monitoring their condition and addressing it accordingly. Diabetes is a rapidly growing chronic illness that is impacting young and old alike, with the American Diabetes Association estimating that in 2011 diabetes affects 8.3% of the population of the United States. The World Health Organization estimates that diabetes affects about 5% of the world population and that the rate of death from diabetes will double between 2005 and 2030. The demand for regular glucose monitoring and the need for patients to control their respective insulin levels will drive demand for continuous glucose monitoring devices and insulin pumps.

The Dexcom Seven Plus continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system is an example of the increasing role that technology is playing in permitting patients to manage their own care in a more consistent and reliable fashion. The device is made up of three separate subsystems operating together as a whole: the sensor, which is implanted into the body; the transmitter, which connects to the sensor and sends the signal from the sensor; and the receiver, which is a hand-held unit that receives the signal and displays the glucose measurements every five minutes. The subjects of this teardown are the transmitter and the receiver; the sensor is not covered here.

Shown are the receiver and transmitter. When in use, the transmitter is connected to the implanted sensor and transmits the reading wirelessly to the receiver via a 402- to 405-MHz radio, with a range of up to 5 ft.


The receiver and its major components can be seen here.


Displayed are the major components within the receiver.


The transmitter, pictured with an X-ray image, reveals its internal components and their arrangement.


The receiver’s main board is shown, with its primary ICs noted.


A cost breakdown reveals the bill of materials.


CGM systems are becoming a rapidly growing segment of the medical device market. They enable diabetes patients to more effectively monitor their condition, correlating glucose levels to medication and activities and permitting them to manage their treatment. The ongoing analysis of this type of product will also provide information regarding the growing use of wireless technology in medical products, particularly with regard to simplifying the monitoring of ambulatory patients.

While the wireless technology being used in this case is under the Medical Implant Communications Service at 402.142 MHz, other bands and formats are making appearances as well in other medical devices. Cost conclusions related to medical products are particularly difficult to estimate due to a number of factors, not the least of which are typically rather low volumes compared with consumer products, clinical testing and qualification cycles, and regulatory compliance.

As medical devices and consumer-driven, commercially available technology continue to converge, analysis of these remote monitoring products will provide valuable information to the developers and designers of future products to aid in the transition of care of the chronically ill from the hospital to the home.

Through comprehensive product tear downs, TechInsights analyzes the latest product examples from a wide spectrum of personal electronics to help our customers understand the competitive landscape, assess technology introduction and selection patterns, and examine product architecture trends. These tear downs come at several levels of complexity, with a baseline teardown being the simplest and a full tear down including cost estimates down to the component level as well as an estimate of the total system cost.

Bill Betten is a senior technical advisor for UBM TechInsights. He is responsible for business development activities associated with intellectual property assessment and management. He also serves as a technical expert with regard to the convergence of medical and consumer products. Betten holds a number of degrees including a BS in physics, a BS in electrical engineering, and an MS in electrical engineering.

William Betten
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