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Wireless Body Area Networks

Posted by Denis Pasero, Product Commercialisation Manager on 22nd August 2016

Wireless Body Area Networks( WBAN) is an increasingly talked about area in medical circles and how it can impact the care of patients and predict medical emergencies prior to them happening, working as an early warning system for patients with illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and asthma. A WBAN is a wireless network that includes sensors that are either implanted in or worn by the user which can all be networked. With the increase in the range of wearable devices looking at medical aspects such as heart rate, blood pressure and activity levels makes this networking approach become more feasible and lower cost to implement. The WBAN network typically will consist of two main parts - miniaturised body sensor units (BSU) which work together with a body central unit (BCU). Smart devices also have a critical role to play as a data hub or gateway providing a user interface as well as offering the ability to monitor and control the central unit.

The rapid innovation in physiological sensors, low power controllers and wireless communications has enabled a new generation of sensor networks. The WBAN opens up the opportunity to allow inexpensive and continuous health monitoring with real time updates of medical records that can be monitored local and remote to the patient. One of the key trends in healthcare is enabling more patients to be treated in their home freeing up much needed hospital beds and improving the patient recovery experience. The ability to implant very small biosensors inside the human body or on organs such as eyes can make the experience more comfortable and not impair normal activities whilst offering constant monitoring. The reduction in size of sensors has been a key element as well as wider adoption of low power wireless transmission methods. The smart lens makes use of many of these technologies. It can be worn on the eye with the key components being positioned round the edge of the eye avoiding issues with vision. To be able to scale down to these levels requires new levels of miniaturisation both from the sensors and controllers as well as the battery technology. 

This ability to provide a bio safe power source to power their sensors and their wireless communications is vital to the success of these WBAN components. Ilika’s Stereax battery technology is a bio compatible solution which is particularity useful for powering ongoing monitors such as for glucose and blood pressure measuring. The batteries can be recharged using inductive charging probes reducing the need for external wiring or the risk of the battery running out of charge. The success of WBANs sits with its level of adoption and compatibility across different components - having a personal IP address may reach new meaning in the future.

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