FCC approves channel for wearable monitors

The Federal Communications Commission yesterday voted to approve a channel to accommodate wearable electronic devices that will free patients now tethered to hospital beds.

New rules will allow healthcare providers to use wireless spectrum for "medical body area networks"--or MBANs--which can transmit information from, and between, mobile medical devices both in the hospital and at home. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski predicted last week that the expansion will allow providers to monitor patients vital signs throughout the continuum of care, prevent adverse events and hospital readmissions, and ultimately lower healthcare costs.

The FCC is dedicating 40 MHz of spectrum in the 2360-2400 MHz band for these MBAN devices. Interestingly enough, hospitals will share this band with commercial test pilots.

The FCC also adopted a Notice of Inquiry to explore the use of aerial technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles, weather balloons or existing aircraft for communications in emergencies.This technology already is used in the military, reports Reuters.

The FCC's notice explained that there remains a gap during the first 72 hours after a catastrophic event when communications may be disrupted or completely disabled due to damaged facilities, widespread power outages or work crews' inability to reach the affected area. 

"Ideally, DACA technologies could be deployed  rapidly to the scene of a major disaster and enable immediate and continuous communications using the  devices that first responders and other users carry with them everyday until the infrastructure is restored," David Furth, acting chief of the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.

The agency will take comments on the issue for 60 days. Concerns remain about the ability to prioritize service on them and potential interference with the national airspace system and existing telecom networks.

To learn more:
- here's the FCC's MBAN notice and the proposed rules
- check out the Reuters piece

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