New research center aims for hospital wireless service innovation

A new research center brings together experts in electrical engineering, computer science, and medicine to develop the next generation of wireless connectivity for hospitals.

New York University and Polytechnic Institute of NYU (NYU-Poly) announced that National Instruments has provided technology for the research center, called NYU Wireless.

Hospitals tend to be geared toward wired communications systems, and New York City especially--with its density, concrete and other suboptimal construction materials, and myriad devices operating on various frequencies--poses particular challenges to wireless systems.

Professor Theodore Rappaport, the center's founder and director, previously established academic wireless centers at Virginia Tech and The University of Texas, though he said this one will be more focused on the engineering infrastructure of hospitals.

The effort already has enlisted 25 engineering, computer science and medical professors and more than 100 graduate students and post-doctoral researchers. They're already involved in research projects totaling $10 million a year. The new center, however, is "ramping it to critical mass and creating a new research environment," Rappaport said according to a Wall Street Journal article; he noted that it's part of NYU's tech hub in downtown Brooklyn.

Among the areas under research: the creation of smaller and smarter cellular networks and wireless devices that cooperate rather than compete for spectrum.

"Over the last three decades, computer clock speeds have increased by three orders of magnitude," Rappaport said, according to EHR Intelligence. "Memory speeds have increased by the same degree. But radio carrier frequencies have only increased by one decade. ... [B]y moving up the spectrum, a new frontier opens to wireless innovation. The millimeter-wave spectrum is uncrowded--with enough capacity to accommodate breakthroughs in cellular and personal wireless communication networks." 

The proliferation of tablets, handheld devices at bedside and wireless monitoring and equipment tracking makes faster flow of data ever more important. And that wireless access isn't just for clinicians. Free access to Wi-Fi can be a big factor in patient satisfaction, according to a recent PwC Health Research Institute report. 

What's more, with growing reliance on technology, the cost of telecom services in healthcare is expected to grow from $9.1 billion this year to $14.4 billion in 2017.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement
- read the EHR Intelligence article
- check out the Wall Street Journal piece