Continua picks ZigBee, Bluetooth LE for health devices, sensors

By Brian Dolan
06:40 am

Continua Health AllianceIn what looks to be a coup for the ZigBee Alliance, the Continua Health Alliance has picked Bluetooth Low Energy and ZigBee for inclusion in its next set of guidelines for interoperability between health devices and systems. The two low power standards will become the technology that Continua promotes for devices used in health and fitness and aging independently. 

The two technologies beat out rival low power technologies Sensium, ANT+, BodyLAN (used in Nike+) and Z-Wave, which all pitched Continua for the coveted spot in the guidelines. (Are we likely to see less of these technologies in fitness and health services moving forward?)

Continua picked Bluetooth low energy, which is still awaiting finalization of its specification, for future low power mobile devices, including activity monitors and heart rate sensors. The alliance also tapped ZigBee Health Care technology for sensors that could be used as motion detectors or bed pressure sensors and other use cases that would "enhance the daily living of those who require assistance aging independently," according to the Continua press release.

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"Version two of our guidelines is well on its way," Continua Health Alliance President David Whitlinger told mobihealthnews a few months ago and just before the alliance began discussion on picking the new technologies. The first "radio selection will be predominantly geared toward the health and fitness devices that are typically body worn... The other use cases being addressed 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."

Whitlinger's comment that one technology could handle both use cases prompted many to speculate the Bluetooth LE would be picked for both uses, which makes the ZigBee pick a coup for the technology.

"The exciting aspect of Bluetooth low energy is its ability to enable low cost devices to be made that can send their data all of the way to the web. It's based on over ten years of experience and promises to have the fastest growing ecosystem of any wireless standard. Today's meeting sent a clear message to developers that they need to start designing now to be ready for the first generation of Bluetooth low energy handsets," Nick Hunn, an analyst over at Creative Connectivity, wrote in a recent report.

Which technology should Continua pick?
Continua: TV set-top box could become the home health hub
First Continua-certified Bluetooth device forthcoming

Continue reading for the full press release from Continua

Continua Health Alliance Looks to the Future with the Selection of Two New Low Power Radio Standards - Enabling Expanded Use Cases

Addition of Bluetooth low energy technology and ZigBee Health Care to provide connectivity for mobile and home sensors

BEAVERTON, Ore. - June 8, 2009 - Continua Health Alliance, the non-profit, open industry coalition of leading health care and technology companies, has selected two wireless technology standards for inclusion in the next version of its interoperability Design Guidelines. The selection of two low power standards will allow additional devices used for health and fitness, as well as aging independently, to join the Continua ecosystem. This decision enables Continua to advance its mission of establishing a system of interoperable, personal telehealth solutions, empowering people and organizations.


The two wireless technology standards are targeted to support mobile and fixed location devices as defined by the next iteration of the Continua Health Alliance Design Guidelines. The alliance has selected Bluetooth low energy wireless technology (pending finalization of the specification) to enable low power mobile devices such as activity monitors and heart rate sensors to be used to monitor a user's health and fitness levels. Additionally, Continua has selected ZigBee Health Care technology for low power sensors that can be networked in a variety of settings, and utilized in devices such as motion detectors and bed pressure sensors to enhance the daily living of those who require assistance aging independently.


"I am excited to announce the forward progress of Continua and its Version Two Design Guidelines. The selection of Bluetooth low energy wireless technology, pending finalization of the specification, and ZigBee Health Care as standards to be included in the guidelines will expand the ability of Continua members to deliver compelling products to consumers," said Rick Cnossen, Continua president and chairman of the Board of Directors. "Our existing Design Guidelines introduced support for Bluetooth wireless technology and USB. Those standards now will be augmented to allow Continua to deliver expanded use cases to satisfy the broad demands of health and fitness, and aging independently applications."


Bluetooth low energy technology is a power efficient, short-range wireless technology that offers connectivity between mobile devices and small, battery-powered devices such as watches, emergency pendants and health and fitness sensors. It features low power consumption, small size and low cost, providing Continua a reliable solution to enable mobile devices for a wide range of telehealth audiences. Bluetooth low energy technology extends the current Continua standard for the Bluetooth Health Device Profile, the only wireless technology specification included in Continua's Version One Design Guidelines, announced in February 2009.


"We are pleased that Continua Health Alliance has selected Bluetooth low energy wireless technology for inclusion in its next Design Guidelines, and are excited about the compelling Bluetooth-enabled devices Continua members will bring to the market," said Michael Foley, Ph.D., executive director, Bluetooth Special Interest Group. "Bluetooth technology has become the ubiquitous wireless standard for mobile device connectivity, and Bluetooth low energy technology will provide Continua with connectivity perfectly suited for incorporation in mobile applications."


ZigBee Health Care development was completed in March 2009. It provides a standard for use by assistive devices operating in non-invasive environments. This interoperable low power wireless solution enables devices to securely and reliably monitor and manage data, without Wi-Fi interference. It can support from two to thousands of devices in a single network. Designed with flexibility in mind, ZigBee Health Care products will be used in a variety of settings, including private residences, recreation centers, retirement communities, hospitals and nursing homes. ZigBee Health Care technology offers Continua a low power, globally accepted method for collecting data in a variety of locations.


"Low-power sensing and monitoring is a core competency of ZigBee and we are excited to help Continua build its technology roadmap and help expand the telehealth industry ecosystem," said Dr. Robert F. Heile, chairman, ZigBee Alliance. "ZigBee Health Care gives care professionals and consumers the ability to connect an almost unlimited number of monitoring devices with ease while maintaining privacy."


By providing the technical roadmap for standards-based connected health solutions, Continua is spurring innovation while removing barriers to global implementation and adoption. The publication of the Continua Health Alliance Version One Design Guidelines earlier this year will be followed by the group's next Design Guidelines issuance, slated for first-half 2010, that will enable new devices, additional use cases and extend the capabilities of devices in the Continua Health Alliance ecosystem.


"Numerous demographic and health status factors will drive the rapid growth of personal telehealth," said Lynne A. Dunbrack, program director, Health Industry Insights, an IDC company. "Continua's commitment to utilize established connectivity standards, such as Bluetooth and ZigBee, will provide the tangible technology base for more widespread telemedicine and remote patient monitoring in the next 12 to 24 months. Together, Bluetooth low energy technology and ZigBee Health Care transport solutions will open new use cases to new classes of devices and services. The continued innovation in connected technology will aid in the deployment of comprehensive solutions for personal health management."


The radio selection process was conducted by members of the Continua Low Power Radio Sub-Team, the Continua Technical Working Group and the Continua Board of Directors. All teams were aided by experts from the technology and health care industries-at-large, as well as guided by research conducted by an independent third party analysis firm. A rigorous process was employed over the course of ten months to select from many outstanding technologies. After consideration of required power levels, cell phone ubiquity, required range and anticipated market penetration, Continua arrived at two technologies to optimally satisfy the required use cases. Today's announcement marks the conclusion of the selection process that has allowed Continua to select technologies that will support the innovation, ingenuity and technical prowess of Continua member companies.


About Continua:

Continua Health Alliance is a non-profit, open industry coalition of the finest health care and technology companies joining together in collaboration to improve the quality of personal health care. With more than 190 member companies around the world, Continua is dedicated to establishing a system of interoperable personal health solutions with the knowledge that extending those solutions into the home fosters independence, empowers individuals and provides the opportunity for truly personalized health and wellness management.


Media Contact:

Blair Cook

Nereus for Continua Health Alliance

+1 503-619-0570


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