Sept 25th, 2019
Torbjörn Grahm, Sony Network Communications Europe
Healthcare providers around the world urgently need an effective way to support the elderly and those with chronic health conditions in their home environments. They need to reduce the number of hospital visits and allocate limited resources in a smarter way.
At Network Communications Europe, we’ve been working on this challenge, and developing a new way to solve it. More on that later. First, let’s consider what it takes to build a successful remote health monitoring service.
What does it take?
First, you need a generic data collection system. One that can pick up relevant information from patients without demanding too much from them. Any monitoring device should be simple to use, easy to read, comfortable to wear and have a long battery life.
Next, you need a way to send the collected data to the care-giver. A communication channel that’s compliant with the relevant privacy and security regulations for sensitive personal data – both in the US and Europe.
When data is collected by sensors from different companies, access to the end point data must be strictly limited to authorised receivers.
Finally, the communications technology used for sending and receiving data must work smoothly all over the world, bearing in mind that people travel abroad and expect things to work the same way they do at home.
Which technology enablers do we have to support the creation of such a solution?
To start with, we have sensors for glucose, blood pressure, pulse, heartrate, ECG, fall tendencies, stress levels, location etc. These use Bluetooth Low Energy standard for power efficient data collection.
When it comes to sending the collected data, it is technically possible for a normal mobile phone to send data to a Cloud backend. However, the phone requires regular charging and the user must be comfortable with the technology. A better way is therefore to use the LTE Cat M1 IoT modem standard. This is designed for short messages and can be integrated with wearable devices, bracelets or cards hung around the patient’s neck. It consumes very little power, which means you get a battery life of 7-10 days in most cases.
Data sent over LTE Cat M1 must be collected in an intelligent backend that can be accessed by Care Givers via APIs, MQTT protocol and Rest APIs are suitable technologies for this purpose.
To solve the global connectivity challenge and simplify things for end-users and care-givers, the best technology is an embedded SIM with global roaming. Cellular connectivity is basically soldered into the monitoring device and controlled via the backend. It has the added advantage of being bi-directional i.e. information can also be sent back to the end user.
To ensure a new mHealth solution reaches all those who can benefit from it, you need an open embedded application development platform with well-defined platform APIs. Uploaded applications must be strictly controlled and the software in the dedicated device must be updated via FOTA (Firmware over the Air).
A solution built on these enablers would create the basis for an mHealth ecosystem; one that could be applied to lots of different use cases. It would give global health care providers a scalable and reusable platform and a cost-effective way to support the elderly and vulnerable at home.
The good news is, we’ve developed such a solution and we’re showcasing it at Connected Health Conference in Boston 16 – 18 October.
Author: Torbjörn Grahm, Senior Problem Solver at Sony Network Communications Europe, obtained his Masters in Engineering Physics from Lund Technical University. He has spent thirty years in innovative high-tech industries with focus on mobile wireless technologies, low power designs and sensor technologies. He is passionate about creating ecosystems that can grow based on the collaboration between users and implementers to solve real challenges.