Body Organs with IP Address!
For cardiac patients too much excitement can be a shocking experience. If their heart rate gets too high an implanted defibrillator in their chest can think their having a heart attack and give them a friendly remedial shock. But such nasty surprises could soon become less of a concern for people like me – by giving our hearts their very own IP addresses.
Dutch research organisation IMEC, based in Eindhoven, this week demonstrated a new type of wireless body area network (BAN). Dubbed the Human++ BAN platform, the system converts IMEC's ultra-low-power electrocardiogram sensors into wireless nodes in a short-range network, transmitting physiological data to a hub – the patient's cellphone.
From there, the readings can be forwarded to doctors via a Wi-Fi or 3G connection. They can also be displayed on the phone or sound an alarm when things are about to go wrong, giving patients like me a chance to try to slow our heart rates and avoid an unnecessary shock.
Besides helping those already diagnosed with chronic conditions, BANs could be used by people at risk of developing medical problems – the so-called "worried well" – or by fitness enthusiasts and athletes who want to keep tabs on their physiological processes during training.
In the current design, the ECG electrodes are connected to a small necklace that contains the transmitter and battery. The next step will be to use an ultra-low-power radio transmitter, still in development at IMEC, to improve the stamina and portability of the sensors.