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Low Energy Bluetooth Powering Mobile Health Care

Health care has needed to go mobile for a long time, and a few companies have made huge strides in terms of incorporating mobile technologies like patient monitoring and medical history distribution via mobile communication into the health care industry.
Health care has needed to go mobile for a long time, and a few companies have made huge strides in terms of incorporating mobile technologies like patient monitoring and medical history distribution via mobile communication into the health care industry.There's a new Bluetooth technology making its way down the pipeline that aims to bring less power consumption and faster data-transmission rates to devices in the medical industry and abroad. Appropriately named "Bluetooth low energy," it's provided by CSR's new BlueCore7 chip that combines low-energy Bluetooth, eGPS, FM transmit, and Bluetooth v2.1+EDR into a single chip.

The first test of the new chip displayed within a mobile device was today at the Bluetooth SIG Medical Working Group meeting in San Francisco. It consisted of a set of weighing scales and a temperature sensor connected via low-energy Bluetooth to a cell phone. The demonstration showed the two devices transferring data to the handset using a Bluetooth low-energy "advertising packet" without any prior configuration or pairing. When a button is pressed on the weighing scales, the embedded Bluetooth low-energy radio wakes up and sends a short burst of data to the handset. The temperature sensor transmits data continuously, and the name and value of both sensors are then simultaneously displayed on the phone. The application automatically updates the display with the new value each time a new advertising packet is received.

It's a huge step forward in powering and connecting medical-based devices for the future. Things like remote-patient and symptom tracking via Bluetooth devices as well as record-keeping, etc., could be enhanced using Bluetooth that doesn't require battery-drain and slow transmissions. This is especially important in a medical environment.

As for mobile devices, the new BlueCore7 chip provides a slew of new possibilities due to its multitransmission capabilities. It will no longer suck the life out of your battery every time you want to use your Bluetooth headset or connect your laptop via Bluetooth-based mobile broadband. The radios can all work independently from each other as well, to allow users to do things like stream FM radio from a handset to a pair of Bluetooth headphones.

Also noteworthy is the fact that while Bluetooth has a limit on the number of connections allowed, low-energy Bluetooth doesn't. This is perhaps why it's perfect for medial-device implementation. The Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group) expects final adoption of Bluetooth low energy technology in the first quarter of 2009. Now it's just up to the device manufacturers to license the chip and put it to use.

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