There is no need to explain the effect wireless devices have had on our lives. However I would bet that not many people have an understanding of how the technology is completely changing the medical industry. For instance, there are implantable pacemakers that have built in GSM (www.middleeasthealthmag.com/jan2005/ article1.htm). Prior to this your doctor would base the tuning of the pacemaker on historical data or no data at all. Now the tuning is based on data sent by the pacemaker. This alone will save the medical system millions of dollars in the reduction of emergency hospital visits. Today the Cardiac Rhythm Market (CRM) market is worth over $8 billion and is expected to grow by 20% each year.
In the implantable world a pacemaker is considered mundane. A little more on the edge is a recent announcement by EaglePicher Medical Power of a new battery that is the size of a grain of rice (www.mtbeurope.info/news/2007/703017.htm). It powers a cardiac monitoring device so small it can be inserted in an artery and will, for 10-15 years, broadcast the condition of a person’s heart. Of course the challenge of imbedding an antenna with the power controls and the logics in a package that is the size match stick has enormous challenges (www.devicelink.com/mem/archive/05/04/004.html).
Wireless is not only saving heart attack victims it is also eliminating the errors caused by giving someone the wrong blood (www.intel.co m/it/pdf/rfid3.pdf). Not surprisingly the ability to achieve such brilliant results is completely transforming how hospitals handle everything from x- rays to patient tracking. This is also a multi billion dollar industry as institutions race to digitalize their networks and operations.
As we move forward we will begin to hear more about the Personal Area Network (PAN) which is being used for disposable medical devices. Or how blue tooth is being built into implantables.
However they are used issues around data security, frequency and user acceptance will continue to be issues manufacturers have to deal with.