January 3, 2012 5:32 pm

Imagination backs low-power chip maker

Imagination Technologies, the UK graphics chip designer, has taken a 25 per cent stake in a new company set up to make ultra low-powered microchips for use in healthcare monitoring and home appliances.

Imagination is investing in Toumaz Microsystems, a newly-formed subsidiary of Toumaz Limited, an Aim-traded company which has created a “digital plaster”, a credit-card sized device with a wireless chip and electrocardiogram pads that remotely monitors patients’ heart rate, body temperature and respiration.

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Toumaz Holdings is starting to sell the health monitoring devices to private hospitals in the US, but has now created a separate company to sell the low-powered Telran chip, developed for the digital plaster, to other industries.

“We have a large number of companies outside the healthcare industry testing out the system,” said Alison Burdett, chief technology officer of Toumaz Holdings.

“The chips can be used for a number of applications from wearable sensors for the military, to consumer items like 3D glasses, remote controls, toys, anything that needs low-powered, short distance connections,” she added.

Milgenco, the UK-based defence company, has started using the chips for biometric monitoring of soldiers.

The chips use less than a tenth of the power of standard bluetooth wireless chips and could eventually be so efficient as to operate without a battery and run on small amounts of solar or heat energy alone.

The technology could be part of efforts to create the “internet of things” where every household appliance and item can be connected with its own online address.

Imagination already has a 5.5 per cent stake in Toumaz Holdings and Hossein Yassaie, Imagination chief executive and friend of Toumaz founder Chris Toumazou, sits on the Toumaz board. Imagination has paid £5m for the 25 per cent stake in Toumaz Microsystems.

Patrick Stephensen, Toumaz’s chief financial officer, said Imagination’s global market reach would help bring out products more quickly. Imagination Technologies supplies graphics, video and display technologies to companies such as Apple and Sony.

Intel and Apple have strategic shareholdings in Imagination.

Shares in Aim-traded Toumaz rose more than 14 per cent to 8.7p. Imagination shares were up 2.73 per cent at 564p.

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