Summary and Remaining Challenges for Wireless Monitoring and Sensing Medical Devices

Wireless physiological measurement systems, like other innovations, seek to reduce risks (Hao and Foster 2008). However, all new technologies have unanswered questions. The major remaining questions concerning all wireless medical devices (whether implantable or not) are as follows (Hao and Foster 2008):

• Reliability - the main challenge is to make sure that information reliably gets to its destination. The reliability of a wireless physiological measurement system relies on many aspects, such as reliable wireless communication between nodes, efficient computation in each sensor node, and stable software programming (Hongliang et al. 2006).

• Biocompatibility - the shape, size, and materials are restricted for sensors that directly act on the human body. One solution is to package the sensor nodes in biocompatible materials and use nanomaterials, which appear to optimally interact with biological tissues (Hongliang et al. 2006).

• Portability - the size of the sensors used in wireless physiological measurement systems and in implantable sensors needs to be small and lightweight.

• Privacy and security - there are big security issues to be considered, such as eavesdropping, identity spoofing (i.e., the assumption of a trusted user's security credentials during a communication session), and redirection of private data to unauthorized persons. Security can be improved using data encryption. It is necessary to protect private data from improper access and alteration.

• Lightweight protocols for wireless communication - must support self-organizing networks (including security aspects) and be able to perform data collection and routing.

• Energy-aware communication - it is desirable for sensors to transmit at low power. An energy-aware protocol is necessary to allow sensors to negotiate their transmission power to a minimum.

• RF radiation safety - the electromagnetic radiation must be within the recommended SAR limits. In the United States, the FCC has set the safe exposure limit to a SAR level at or below 1.6 W kg-1 in 1 g of tissue. In Europe, the European Union Council has adopted the SAR limit of 2 W kg-1 in 10 g of tissue.

However, in light of these high demands for sensors, the excitement concerning developing more efficient and effective medical devices based on wireless medical sensor technology makes this journey worth every effort.

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