One still-emerging area of our converged world is connecting the myriad endpoints within our reach into the network. We’ve all heard of wide area networks (WANs) and local area networks (LANs), but you’ll soon be hearing more about Body Area Networks (BANs), thanks to a recent FCC decision authorizing the redeployment of spectrum.
Most of us are familiar with how hospital patients are often hooked up to a number of machines to monitor various vital functions. The same is true for people who are tethered to such monitoring devices at home; but with a BAN, the average device need not have physical wires to deliver its telemetry data to a monitoring station.
The Federal Communications Commission authorized a piece of spectrum for BANs, which will help eliminate cords on electrocardiogram, neo-natal and other patient monitoring equipment, and which will enable doctors to monitor patients wirelessly whether the patient is in the hospital or at home. The spectrum is already in use by the aeronautics industry for test pilot communication, but the new FCC rule lets pilots continue to use the spectrum in the sky and the medical industry can use it on the ground. Specifically, the FCC designated 40 MHz in the 2.3 GHz frequency band for short-range, wideband transmission within medical facilities and homes. \
This will be an interesting trend to follow, as sharing spectrum between government and commercial uses may become more common as the demands we are placing on wireless networks require more and more spectrum.
As Kevin Fitchard at GigaOm posts, BANs “will allow medical device makers to consolidate many of the technologies they have developed on a wide array of unlicensed or multi-use frequencies into a single medical band.” Indeed, medical device manufacturers have been forced to use public 802.11 devices for medical telemetry, which isn’t optimal given the safety issues at play. Finding ways to allow technologies to share spectrum will be important for the future of wireless. Of course, until they find a way to let me play Angry Birds while in an airplane on the tarmac, there is still a little work to be done.