New wi-fi devices warn doctors of heart attacks
Adam Sherwin, Media Correspondent
The Bluetooth wireless technology that allows people to use a hands-free earpiece while making a mobile telephone call could soon alert the emergency services when someone has a heart attack, Ofcom predicts.
The communications regulator said that sensors could be implanted into people at risk of heart attack or diabetic collapse that would allow doctors to monitor them remotely.
If the “in-body network” recorded that the person had suddenly collapsed, it would send an alert, via a nearby base station at their home, to a surgery or hospital.
However, Ofcom also gave warning in its report, Tomorrow’s Wireless World, that the impact of such technology on personal privacy would require more debate.
The technology, which is being tested now in Portsmouth, could also be used if a patient failed to take his or her medicines. A pill dispenser would send an automatic reminder and, if the pills were not taken within a certain time, an alarm would sound and a message would be sent to the patient’s family or carers.
However, health experts say that they are sceptical about the level of take-up of “in-body” sensors while research into the possible radiation impact of wi-fi networks is going on.
The Ofcom report also said that advances in GPS positioning and short-range wireless technologies could “revolutionise the way we conduct our journeys and safety levels on the roads”. Intelligent transport systems being developed by car manufacturers allowed cars to communicate with each other and send alerts about sudden braking. If a collision happened the car’s system could automatically call the emergency services. The technology could also apply the brakes automatically if it was determined that two cars were getting too close to each other.
Paramedics attending the scene of an accident would carry a small computer that would pick up wireless messages from a bracelet incorporated in the driver’s watch. These would enable them to gain access to information about his or her medical history.
The European Commission is discussing whether to allow the “e-Call” automatic emergency call-out, which could be on the market by 2011. A recent trial suggested that the technology could cut ten minutes off the time for the emergency services to reach the scene of an accident and a 15 per cent reduction in fatalities.
Ofcom said that drivers could be helped by further advances in sat-nav technology. Signals would alert drivers to congestion ahead and then calculate whether their proposed journey would be quicker by train.
Wireless communication technology could also enable food items to carry microchips containing information on their contents. This would allow, for example, nut allergy sufferers to be alerted if they inadvertently picked up an item containing nuts.
Ofcom concluded that wireless communication was now “integral to our lives”. It said that the Government must decide how to prepare for future demands on the radio frequencies, or spectrums, that wireless services use. Wireless congestion, with wi-fi users “piggybacking” on other people’s connections, must not result in interference in potentially life-saving communications, it added.
Peter Ingram, Ofcom’s chief technology officer, said: “This report demonstrates the many creative ways that the radio spectrum can be used for the benefit of citizens. But other bodies will have to decide whether the transfer of personal data, which these advances involve in the medical sphere, is appropriate for the benefits.”
looks good to me if it can save my life