Body networks ask what is the frequency

Paul Coss of Philips insists the frequency is necessary. WiFi spectrum is already heavily-used in hospitals, he said, and dedicated spectrum is needed for life-critical information.

After far too long in development, Body Area Networks are moving toward the market.

A Body Area Network, sometimes called a Medical Body Area Network, consists of sensors you wear or have implanted, which measure your condition, and report via a wireless link to a base station. The data can be analyzed locally, reported on a schedule or an emergency basis, and it's a real killer app.

The hope is that, once it becomes common for hospitalized patients to be monitored with wireless BAN, this technology will filter down into the mass market. Anyone with a chronic condition, or an athlete looking for peak performance, could benefit enormously.

I began writing about these ideas in 2003, as just one application of what I called "always-on" technologies, in that they were never turned off like a PC, and live in the air.

A set of BAN standards is now emerging from a working group within the IEEE's 802.15 standards body,

and a group of medical equipment suppliers including Philips and GE is seeking a dedicated frequency for BAN, close to that of WiFi.

The FCC asked for comments on this allocation last year, proposing several possible frequency allocations, and hard questions are being asked.

  • Why can't BANs use the WiFi spectrum?
  • What about interference with existing uses of that spectrum, specifically aeronautics and the military?
  • Will the increased cost from using a special radio be worth it?

Paul Coss of Philips insists the frequency is necessary. WiFi spectrum is already heavily-used in hospitals, he said, and dedicated spectrum is needed for life-critical information.

My problem with that is you're still looking to WiFi or cellular for backhaul of the same life-critical information, and what happens when a BAN user gets on an airplane, which is also transmitting life-critical data on the spectrum?

Good answers will come, I think, from both the industry and the FCC. The more important point is that this technology, and this market, are moving rapidly now, and could save your life in a matter of a few years.

Growth is coming. Good, solid, life-saving growth, without wires, which is cost-effective, with help from Moore's Law.

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