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Medicine Networking Wireless Networking Science

FCC OKs On-Body Medical Networks 41

itwbennett writes "On Wednesday the FCC approved the use of medical micropower networks (MMNs) in four blocks of the 400MHz spectrum band despite opposition from broadcast engineers who say they are concerned about interference. MMNs can be used to bypass areas of the nervous system that have been impaired by strokes or spinal cord or brain injuries."
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FCC OKs On-Body Medical Networks

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  • so we have milliwatt generators that can run off of blood sugar. Approved for a whole body network. how long till we can get a lela wrist pc?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 02, 2011 @09:20AM (#38236290)

    with my plan on world domination?

    Posting Anonymously for obvious reasons.

    • Apparently, a guy called Mark Zuckerberg is already investing in practical uses for this network in both sick and healthy people. Think about the possibilities! You no longer have to update your FaceBook status manually, your body will do it for you! Taking a leak... drinking beer... looking at girl... getting aroused... Together with the levels of blood sugar, testosterone,... Everything will be posted automatically without you even having to lift a finger. And you'll even receive relevant ads to enhance y
      • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )

        "Jim is at Wilton Public Library."

        "Jim has added Mrs. Roswell as a friend."

        "Jim has an erection."

  • To getting "them internets" wired directly into the frontal lobe...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 02, 2011 @09:27AM (#38236326)

    Unless these devices have even the most basic of basic frequency-knocking or some sort of unique ID system, this could end up horribly wrong.
    God forbid some poor people ended up next to each other and interfered with each other.

    If they do, however, then alls good. Completely for it.
    Frequency-knocking or ID systems would prevent any interference outside of malicious intent.
    So the devices would essentially be safe in almost all cases.

    Now the only worry would be EMP explosions that could completely nuke the circuit. Let's hope they thought of that...

    • by glop ( 181086 )

      As far as I am concerned, I'd want code multiplexing or other interference avoiding techniques. And then full encryption with authentication to make sure the components that have been paired and only them can give each other orders.
      I mean, this is going to be some guy's way of commanding his limbs. Nobody wants a script kiddie to be able to play Darth Vader's grip of death with a poor guy's 'Luke' prosthetic arm that did not have adequate protection...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        This will not help. You are working with milliwatts, at most,, maybe even microwatt range.
        A simple 10Watt FM transmitter modulated with white noise can make the complete frequency band unusable.
        The cripple guy's legs will stop working the moment you switch this thing on. "Hilarity" ensues....

    • by ATestR ( 1060586 ) on Friday December 02, 2011 @09:40AM (#38236372) Homepage
      Actually, the real concern was interference from Amateur Radio signals. The frequency range that these devices plan to use is in the 440 - 450 MHz range... which is right where a bunch of the little hand held ham radio units operate. The ARRL (National Amateur Radio Association) was the biggest group against the proposed usage, and the FCC only permitted the use with the prevision that it was Secondary to the existing licensees (HAMs). In other words, the medical devices cannot interfere with the radios, and they have to be able to live with any signals produced by radios. Here [] is an in depth article regarding the FCC grant.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You're preaching to the choir. The FCC has made so MANY great decisions about spectrum sharing in the recent past. Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) and the wonderful Lightsquared LTE phone network debacle located right on top of the GPS band. They don't seem to grok the concept of "THESE DECISIONS MIGHT GET PEOPLE KILLED!"

        Am I over reacting here?

        If I can't take my cell phone into a medical area for fear of screwing up some life critical device in a medical office, why in the hell does the FCC think that t

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I've noted a number of devices popping up in the 70cm band that fall right inside the amateur radio primary allocation. Note PRIMARY.

        So they are probably Part 15 devices, in that they cannot generate interference to the primary user, and must shield against or accept interference from the primary user.

      • which is right where a bunch of the little hand held ham radio units operate.

        And a bunch of medium sized mobile units and a bunch of larger sized base units, and a whole passle of big repeater units.

        What an interesting irony: I have a 600W ERP 440MHz repeater installed on the top of the local hospital. It will be amazing, 83 people going into epileptic fits every time someone pushes the PTT button...

        In other words, the medical devices cannot interfere with the radios,

        This is about the most dishonest way of allowing intruding devices into an existing band. Since these are spread spectrum emitters, it is very unlikely that any one of them will dire

        • But for the medical devices, could a circuit with fast enough frequency hopping be resistant to being jammed by your repeater.

          So they might accept interference for some fraction of a second then hop onto the next frequency on the table. If a patient is having issues with interference from devices, they should be able change the table of frequencies it gets chosen from.

          Wiki link for those interested in more about frequency hopping []

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      God forbid some poor people ended up next to each other and interfered with each other

      Look at the bright side: in a few years time, when everybody has their very own body network, you'll be able to say "hey sweety, care if I insert my connector into your hub for some data sharing? No no, not there, the head socket will do just fine".

    • by azalin ( 67640 )
      I'd guess in case of a large enough emp blast, there might be some more pressing problems to attend to.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Now the only worry would be EMP explosions that could completely nuke the circuit. Let's hope they thought of that...

      They probably thought:

      If somebody is doing an intention EMP burst, they're doing it for a purpose, and that purpose is likely intended to be against infrastructure in general.

      It's like being concerned about an oxygen tank being ignited by a firebomb, chances are the problem is already hitting you hard.

    • God forbid some poor people ended up next to each other and interfered with each other.

      Wait, wait... maybe if some people with this tech embedded in them got next to each other and it made them more powerful? And getting enough of those people together could make them more powerful still?

      They could be like some Justice League or something, only they'd always have to stay in each others' general vicinity.

      I'm just putting that out there. I'm not saying that's what would happen, just, like, that could totall

    • It might just mean less practice required for a chorus-line or synchronized swim team! Any untalented hack with the right implant could walk in off the street and become one of the Rockettes!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Oh, don't worry, the FDA and EU/CE have mandated "Design Controls" and "Risk Analysis" for all medical devices. Here is a story about how those regulations helped one medical device manufacturer ensure that their product wouldn't hurt anybody. The product is implantable, and occasionally RF programmed, I won't name the condition it treats because that would clearly identify my former employer. The implant has a programmable intensity scale, from 1 to 32, with 1 being nearly indistinguishable from off, an

  • Why wireless (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Friday December 02, 2011 @09:42AM (#38236382)

    In some instances, like communicating to implants from the outside without breaching the skin barrier, I can understand the use of radio signals - although induction sounds simpler, less power-hungry and more localized to me.

    But for implant-to-implant communication? This reminds me furiously of the wireless bicycle odometer idiocy, whereby a transmitter is used to transmit wheel rotation signals a couple of feet up to the odometer proper, using two batteries instead of one, and making the entire thing more expensive, less reliable and more prone to signal jamming, just for the sake of not running a 2-ft cable up a brake cable.

    If they're going to implant devices in someone's organism, they should just run wires under the skin: bio-compatible materials exist that wires can be made of (heck, they're already implanting the devices anyway), they'll get better throughput and latency, the devices will require less power, will be less complicated, and more importantly, will be immune to outside signals.

    • Re:Why wireless (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Friday December 02, 2011 @09:57AM (#38236464) Homepage

      Well, I mean I could be an idiot here ( I'm definitely no doctor and my knowledge here is quite limited), but doesn't that make the surgery much more complex and invasive? I mean, with wireless you're basically implanting one or two radio receiver/transmitters (One in the case of a robotic limb which will have it own r/t technically "outside" the body, two if they're trying to bypass nerve damage). That's pretty straightforward work. One incision, install the r/t, sew it up. With implanted wires you're going to have to make long, fairly deep, incisions all down the path between the two wired r/t devices, no? That's a lot of extra pain for the patient, a lot of additional sites for infection, a lot longer surgery, etc. Plus what do you do if the cable breaks? Rip it all out and start over? You can usually repair cable, but at least outside the body it's rarely as strong as it was originally.

      • Are you a cable TV technician?

      • Wires in the body are bad. Very bad when you get an MRI. The problem with wireless is that it takes batteries to make it go, batteries wear out, wireless communication makes batteries wear out faster. Most implantables only use wireless for brief, occasional communication. The surgery required to replace batteries (which, to the glee of the CEOs, always means replacing the entire implant), is risky and inconvenient. So, unless an implant can be sited directly on the structure(s) it wants to electricall

    • Definitely agree with this! Promoting wireless for this application sounds like either a buzzword-driven Pointy-Haired Boss or a paid shill for a wireless chipset. Induction coupling works if the signal needs to come out through the skin (and power needs to get in.) It can be shielded easily too, with a thin mu-metal pad on the outside of the external coil.

    • bio-compatible materials exist that wires can be made of

      Bio-compatible implantable wires are a good deal more complex, failure prone, and expensive than a titanium can. The wires need to stretch with the body and be fully insulated. Stainless steel coils inside silicon sheaths are used - it's not as simple or robust as the 18 gauge romex in your house. The junction from wire to implant can is also a problem that you can't solve with wire-nuts.

  • by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <> on Friday December 02, 2011 @11:56AM (#38238154) Journal

    I'd prefer wired or optical wherever possible. Wireless could be OK for some things, like implant status monitoring or emergency diagnostics / manual override (using strong authentication of course). For something important like linking a prosthetic limb to your spine? Bad idea, too easy to jam, and the completely unnecessary potential for black hats to impersonate the control signal is not a good thing.

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