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IEEE releases new standard for body area network

After five years of work, the IEEE announced a new standard, IEEE 802.15.6, for wireless communications supporting ultra-low power devices operating in or around the human body.
Written by Chris Jablonski, Inactive

The IEEE announced today a new standard designed for electronic devices in or around the human body, setting the stage for full-scale human-computer integration.

With data rates up to 10 Mbps, IEEE 802.15.6TM-2012 is designed to address and compensate for the effects of a body on network performance, and enable a variety of applications including medical, consumer electronics, and personal entertainment.

The short range, low power, and reliable wireless communication protocol could give rise to a new generation of wireless implantable devices and wearable computing devices, such as head-up displays.

Art Astrin, chair of the IEEE 802.15.6 Task Group, said, "The new standard underscores our commitment to the realization of a true body area network to meet the challenges of achieving far-ranging and futuristic solutions for healthcare, prosthetics, implants and a variety of novel consumer uses."

Medical examples include routine diagnostic testing, smart blood monitors, automated drug delivery, and brain and retinal implants. Similarly, the new standard could make sport fitness devices and wearable gaming gadgets smarter.

"The existence of a body area network standard provides a myriad of opportunities to create a wide variety of new products and capabilities aimed at enhancing people's comfort and well being in ways we can only begin to imagine," said Astrin.

While it may take some time before manufacturers take full advantage of the standard, others are ahead of the pack with connecting on-person hardware with wireless technology. For instance, Google was recently granted a patent for a method allowing hand gestures to control its Project Glass augmented reality system. It would use an invisible reflective infrared identifier placed on a user's ring, glove, or even fingernail.

The new IEEE body area network standard won't replace IR or Bluetooth by any means; in fact, it will work with Bluetooth.


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