The information sharing or more explicitly the connectivity between devices/systems for data sharing is becoming a key aspect of personal healthcare or clinical health care solutions. While wired systems have been used, they definitely have user adaptability issues: imagine a patient carrying a bunch of wires for a personal health care monitoring system or a patient lying on the operation table surrounded by wires. Despite regulatory constraints, wireless technology is quickly proliferating as a preferred communication means for applications in the wider area (e.g., remote monitoring of patients) as well as short area (e.g., Patient monitors) needs.
Companies can opt for a proprietary RF wireless solution or a standard wireless solution like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee etc. A proprietary solution helps in better control and can cater to specific needs whereas the use of standard technology helps reduce development and testing effort and better manage regulatory expectations.
The low energy Bluetooth standard is designed as a low cost solution with focus on low power consumption, and it is targeted at applications for data collection from sensor based device networks. It works on the concept of small data transmission on an event (e.g., periodic capture of vital data to a central hub), which results in low power consumption compared to regular Bluetooth (with continuous data streaming). The event based system wakeup makes it ideal for sensor based device networks. Its enhanced range is over 100 meters with connection setup and data transfer latency as low as 3ms. It also supports Full AES-128 encryption using CCM. The low energy Bluetooth uses the adaptive frequency hopping principle to minimize interference from other technologies like Wi-Fi in the 2.4 GHz band. The best part is that in the dual mode a device can work on both the classical Bluetooth and the low energy Bluetooth protocol depending on the master device where as in single mode it will work on the low energy Bluetooth protocol only.
The standard Bluetooth health device profile focuses on the patient monitoring and personal health care devices both in home and clinic environment. Personal health care is one of the best-identified business cases for low energy Bluetooth and with initiatives from Continua Health Alliance, there is already the required traction for integration between third party devices. However, there is a great opportunity (serial port profile or other standard profiles) to use this technology in other areas of device connectivity as well. Some examples could be:
- Low Energy Bluetooth enabled Patient bedside vital monitoring devices, which send vitals data to a central device. The central hub could further connect to a central server on LAN or WLAN.
- Continuous diabetic monitoring devices, which send the data to a Smartphone application. The data could be uploaded from a Smartphone to a central server for data management or other usage.
- After surgery or rehabilitation monitoring devices
- Smart wireless diagnostic catheters with a smart node that sends the data to the central data collection device over low energy Bluetooth