Friday, March 02, 2007

Discussion with Bill Kaiser, UCLA on Body Area Networks

I had the opportunity to return to UCLA and visit Bill Kaiser and his work in the CENS (Center for Embedded Network Systems). In my last post, I talked about the LEAP platform they built using a dual-processor architecture. It contained a high-performance processor and a low-power consumption processor. Based on the application at hand, it would use one or the other and thus conserve battery life.

In today’s discussion we focused on the applications coming up. Bill mentioned three of them:

1. Structural Health Monitoring -- measuring building stress under various loads (seismic, wind, etc). It must be battery powered for disaster scenarios.
2. Marine – sequencing power to communication systems with on-board sensors attached to buoys. The node needs a power scheduling system to preserve power and reduce maintenance cost.
3. Biomedical – using handheld devices with wearable sensors to monitor a person’s biomedical signals. By using appropriate duty-cycling he can conserve power on the node. They need an easy-to-use programming language for users in this area to implement their own systems. There’s increasing support throughout the campus for this application area.

Philips and Qualcomm are both pursuing a body area network system to provide bandwidth for high quality transmission of CD-quality audio over short range. Bill indicated that in just a few years, anyone with a medical condition will have a handheld device (a cell phone comes to mind) that would communicate with wearable sensors detecting heart rate, and other body signals. Standards are coming into place now through a Body Area Network (BAN) interest group within the 802.15 committee.
Here’s a PowerPoint slide set that outlines the applications and a few proposed requirements. This area is gaining increasing attention due to the progress of wireless sensor networks, wireless standards, and low power processors. Here’s an article showing a multi-tiered architecture for a telemedicine application.

Along with medical data come security requirements for protecting that data. Encryption and authentication become key elements in providing a viable system. Also, keeping the data in a meaningful form that can be archived and retrieved for future purposes comes up.

It’s an interesting area, and it certainly has the attention of a large number of departments at UCLA. Going forward, this will become a key application drawing substantial resources.

Best regards,
Hall T.


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