Which technology should Continua pick?

By Brian Dolan
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This past week Sensium, the Zigbee Alliance, ANT+, Bluetooth Low Energy, BodyLAN (used in Nike+) and Z-Wave each presented their short range wireless technologies to the Continua Health Alliance at a summit in Barcelona, Spain. The technologies are candidates for the radio technologies selections that the Alliance is making for its Version 2 guidelines. Continua is looking to add guidelines for body worn health and fitness devices (LP-PAN) as well as guidelines for sensors that might be distributed throughout a home to assist remote monitoring (LP-LAN). The LP-LAN guidelines would include bed pressure sensors, motion detection sensors and so on.

"Version 2 of our guidelines is well on its way," Continua Health Alliance President David Whitlinger told mobihealthnews last week. "... That radio selection will be predominantly geared toward the health and fitness devices that are typically body worn... The other use cases being address via low power radio are the sensors that might be distributed throughout the home of an elder individual, for example," Whitlinger explained. "... It's possible they could both be the same technology, but because the use cases are different there is an option that there could be two separate radio technologies. We will make some announcement on that once the decision is made, but it will take a bit of time for us to put some messaging around that."

While the Continua Health Alliance will be evaluating the technologies on a number of criteria, including their technical attributes, here's a quick high level intro to each of the six technologies in case you are unfamiliar. Descriptions have been pulled from the technologies' info pages:

Sensium
"Sensium is an ultra low power sensor interface and transceiver platform for a wide range of applications in healthcare and lifestyle management. The device includes a reconfigurable sensor interface, digital block with 8051 processor and an RF transceiver block. On chip program and data memory permits local processing of signals. This capability can significantly reduce the transmit data payload. Together with an appropriate external sensor, the Sensium provides ultra low power monitoring of ECG, temperature, blood glucose and oxygen levels. It can also interface to 3 axis accelerometers, pressure sensors and includes a temperature sensor on chip. One or more Sensium enabled digital plasters continuously monitor key physiological parameters on the body and report to a basestation Sensium plugged into a PDA or Smartphone. The data can be further filtered and processed there by application software." Read More

ZigBee
"ZigBee Health Care provides a global standard for interoperable wireless devices enabling secure and reliable monitoring and management of noncritical, low-acuity healthcare services targeted at chronic disease management, obesity and ageing. ZigBee Health Care is designed for use in homes, fitness centers, retirement communities, nursing homes and a variety of medical care facilities. Products using ZigBee Health Care may be wearable, portable or fixed, depending on needs. In addition, ZigBee Health Care products can interact with the broader ecosystem of ZigBee wireless technology devices that may be found in typical home and commercial settings. It also provides full support for IEEE 11073 devices including glucometers, pulse oximeters, electrocardiographs, weight scales, thermometers, blood pressure monitors and respirometers. ZigBee Health Care is designed with affordability, ease-of-use, security and interoperability all in mind." Read More

ANT+
"A practical Continua Solution: ANT+ proudly addresses all Continua use case requirements for Body Area Networks (BAN) including: Proven Ultra-low Power, Co-existence with nearby networks, Small memory size, Support Range and data transmission rates, Number of devices on network, Mobility, Ad hoc capability, Frequency agility." Read More

Bluetooth Low Energy
"Devices housing Bluetooth low energy technology will consume only a fraction of the power of classic Bluetooth enabled products. In many cases, low energy products will operate more than a year on a tiny button cell battery without the need for recharging. By strengthening the technology's ability to provide wireless connectivity for smaller devices, low energy rounds out the total Bluetooth wireless Personal Area Networking (PAN) offering." Read More

BodyLAN
"BodyLAN is an ultra low power, reliable and low cost, 2.4 GHz wireless protocol that is easy to implement and specifically designed to handle health, wellness and fitness applications. BodyLAN devices use only a small coin-cell battery that can last for years depending on the application. This enables the deployment of miniature wireless, health, fitness and wellness devices. FitLinxx built this protocol as a direct response to their own critical need to conserve power, keep costs to a minimum, manage and control millions of dispersed devices and make sure end users have a great experience. BodyLAN is offered in multiple configurations including chip sets, modules and access points. BodyLAN has been implemented in millions of devices including consumer fitness products, weight scales, blood pressure monitors, peak flow meters, heart rate monitors, fitness equipment and consumer electronics products." Read More

Z-Wave
"Z-Wave is the first technology to bring affordable, reliable and easy-to-use wireless control to every aspect of daily life - the home, consumer electronics, healthcare, and energy use, to name just a few. Z-Wave is an award-winning, proven and interoperable* wireless mesh networking technology that allows a wide array of devices in and around the home to communicate including lighting, appliances, HVAC, entertainment centers, and security systems. Z-Wave brings many benefits to everyday life including remote home monitoring, home healthcare, safety and security, and energy conservation. Z-Wave certified products are currently available from leading consumer brands in more than 300 products." Read More