The IEEE has announced a new standard, IEEE 802.15.6-2012, designed to support the design of ultra-low power wireless devices operating in or around the human body. The standard aims to address and compensate for the effects of a body on network performance, effectively enabling "body area networking." The IEEE hopes that IEEE 802.15.6-2012 will enable wireless implantable devices, assist in the development of new opportunities for delivering better healthcare networking, and support other uses for wearable computing devices.
The standard specifies a short range, low power, and reliable wireless communication protocol for use in close proximity to, or inside, a human body. Supporting data rates up to 10 Mbps, IEEE 802.15.6-2012 will help support the combination of security, reliability, quality of service, low power, data rate, and interference protection needed to address the breadth of body area network applications not supplied by other wireless communications standards, the IEEE asserts.
“[The 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,” says Art Astrin, chair of the IEEE 802.15.6 Task Group. “The IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) is a global leader and innovator in communications standards development, and this standard is in keeping with that tradition.”
Examples of the applications served by the IEEE 802.15.6-2012 standard include routine diagnostic testing such as electroencephalograms (EEGs), electrocardiograms (ECGs), and monitoring of vital signals such as temperature, heart rate, oxygen, and blood pressure. It may also find use in automated drug delivery systems, to interconnect a wearable or implanted glucose sensor with an insulin pump, in deep brain or cortical stimulators to address conditions such as Parkinson’s, in retinal implants to give vision to the blind, or in sensors to aid in sport training, the IEEE speculates.
Additionally, IEEE 802.15.6-2012 could find uses for personal entertainment and gaming, including body-centric approaches to wearable computers. “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,” concludes IEEE's Astrin.