Design & SimulationFebruary 2, 2021

Pacemakers and Smartphones: How Electromagnetic Simulation Helps Protect Device Users

Owning a smartphone is incredibly common, and many people rely on their…
Avatar Clare Scott

Owning a smartphone is incredibly common, and many people rely on their devices for every aspect of their lives. We not only make phone calls and send text messages with our phones, we also email, maintain social media accounts, store calendars and notes, play games and much more. We therefore keep them close to us all the time. Most smartphone owners have never thought of their devices as dangerous, other than the risk of becoming too dependent on them. But for people with pacemakers and other implanted medical devices, there may be risks they hadn’t counted on.

Apple recently posted a notice on its support page that all varieties of the iPhone 12, as well as its MagSafe accessories, contain magnets, radios and other components that emit electromagnetic fields. These components could potentially interfere with medical devices such as pacemakers, and Apple recommends keeping one’s iPhone or MagSafe accessories at least six inches or 15 centimeters away from any medical devices.

The warning comes with a note that the iPhone 12 contains more magnets than previous models, although it does not necessarily pose more of a risk than other iPhone models. This raises the question of whether wearers of pacemakers and other devices should have been keeping their smartphones—iPhone or otherwise—away from their medical implants all along

Concerns about the effects of electromagnetic fields, such as those given off by wireless devices like cell phones and smart watches, are not new, but most people don’t think about them these days. The general public was more worried about these devices’ effects on the body in the early days of cell phones, but by now it’s generally accepted that they are subject to rigorous testing and regulations—which is true, and involves a great deal of simulation.

Electromagnetic simulation is, in fact, the only way to analyze and understand the distribution of electromagnetic fields inside the body, and to identify potential hazards they may cause. SIMULIA CST Studio Suite offers a thorough set of tools that allow device manufacturers to meet government regulations and ensure safety for consumers.

For example, all electromagnetic devices worn or used in the vicinity of the human body require government certification based on statistic field evaluation or specific absorption rate (SAR), which measures how much energy is absorbed by the body. CST Studio Suite can calculate all types of SAR, allowing engineers to evaluate SAR values even in the earliest stages of product design.

CST Studio Suite also has a multiphysics module with bioheat solvers that can calculate temperature distributions, including the effects of living tissues such as metabolic heating, blood diffusion and human thermoregulation. In addition, CST can simulate sensors and antennas worn on or in the body in devices such as smart watches, hearing aids, pacemakers and other implants.

How, then, can the effects of smartphones on medical devices be better studied? The answer lies in more extensive simulation. CST Studio Suite has already been proven to be able to simulate the effects of both pacemakers and smartphones on the human body; now what is needed is simulation of the effects that they have on each other. The electromagnetic device industry is a growing one as more complex and connected devices are developed, and manufacturers must account for how these devices will interact. As it is currently not feasible to measure electromagnetic effects directly within the body, simulation is more important than ever in assessing these effects, developing solutions and ensuring safety for all consumers.

SIMULIA offers an advanced simulation product portfolio, including AbaqusIsightfe-safeToscaSimpoe-MoldSIMPACKCST Studio SuiteXFlowPowerFLOW and more. The SIMULIA Community is the place to find the latest resources for SIMULIA software and to collaborate with other users. The key that unlocks the door of innovative thinking and knowledge building, the SIMULIA Community provides you with the tools you need to expand your knowledge, whenever and wherever.

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