mHealth Research Digest by Mohamed Elawad, BS

Wireless sensor devices, which are wearable and implanted and can remotely inform doctors of patient’s vital signs and other data, are closer to becoming a practical reality.

This specific field of technology within sensor devices is known as Body Area Networks (BAN).

The costs of such a technology has significantly decreased but one of the few major obstacles left is the amount of power these devices consume.

To help overcome this issue, researchers have proposed methodologies for the sensor radios to reduce their power usage.

The proposed radio modules attached to the sensors would help reduce power usage by switching the devices into and out of an idle or sleep (off) state in order to save energy. Traffic for normal and emergency data was also taken into consideration to hone the designed system.

In addition, media access control (MAC) protocols, (the software that determines how data is transmitted to and from the devices), tend to be complicated and inefficient, contributing to the amount of power consumed. As part of their proposal, researchers created their own MAC protocol and evaluated their work by comparing the power consumed to other popular MAC protocols including B-MAC, X-MAC, WiseMAC and ZigBee.

By removing idle listening periods and other techniques to reduce power overheads, the proposed MAC protocol of the authors succeeds in reducing power consumption and outperforms all of the other MAC’s measured against in the study.

The study tested power consumption when compared to wake up intervals & inter-arrival time, and the battery lifetime of the tested device vs. number of events per day. The power consumed was significantly lower when using the proposed MAC, resulting in the lifetime of the tested device jumping up to six-fold when compared to the closest alternative MAC tested.

The research conducted is a step forward in the use of BAN’s to remotely monitor patients. The MAC proposed appears to decrease power consumption and therefore the battery lifetime of BAN’s. The authors nevertheless add that more work needs to be done to improve quality of service and security. With the increasing interest in body area sensor networks and the research going into this field, this technology could soon become commonplace.

Authors: Moshaddique Al Ameen, M Sanaullah Chowdhury,S m Riazul, Islam, Kyungsup Kwak, Niamat Ullah

Institutions: UWB Wireless Communications Research Center, Inha University, Incheon, South Korea

Original Abstract:EURASIP Journal on Wireless Communications and Networking