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Report Highlights Potential Impact of Spectrum Changes on Medical Device Innovation

Posted 23 July 2012 | By

A new report out by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) makes the case that blocks of carefully managed wireless spectrum may be of increasing importance to future medical device innovation.

The report, Realizing the Full Potential of Government-Held Spectrum to Spur Economic Growth, comes just two months after the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) announced its own first-in-the-world plan to dedicate a band of wireless spectrum for Medical Body Area Networks (MBANS). The networks are essentially semi-local-an entire hospital, for instance-networks composed of multiple wireless medical devices capable of communicating with one another.

FCC's plan would open up the 2360-2400 GhZ band of spectrum for MBANS, and would require regulatory professionals or other company representatives to register with a to-be-formed MBAN coordinator and make sure the devices do not interfere with other devices at each location "if warranted" by FCC.

In its May 2012 presentation of the plan, FCC said the devices had the potential to simplify an already-complicated environment for devices that is growing increasingly more complicated. "Each year, millions of Americans deal with the discomfort and risk of infection that result from the attachment to medical equipment cables, and the limitations of these physical cables keep nearly half of all patients from being actively monitored," explained FCC in a statement. "MBANs allow for ubiquitous and reliable monitoring, and give health care providers the chance to identify life-threatening problems or events before they occur. "

Report Speaks to Potential Impact of Spectrum Changes

PCAST's report seems to agree with those sentiments. The group noted FCC's proposal, saying medical devices would stand to benefit from "some form of spectrum access protection" afforded by the plan.

But PCAST's report goes beyond FCC's initial hopes for the program, envisioning medical camera pills hooked up to cellular telephone systems, potentially allowing doctors to conduct extremely thorough exams from a remote location. A similar small-scale device highlighted by PCAST's report could replace damaged nerves by utilizing "radio spectrum sharing technologies [to] switch frequency bands to operate reliably."

"Under present and near­future architectures, applications that move beyond a fixed local spot and require more­or­less continuous coverage, such as […] medical warning devices for acute conditions in mobile patients […] may require more predictable spectrum access than is offered by present unlicensed architectures, yet not require or have the ability to pay for ongoing or occasional secure access to high­availability spectrum" wrote PCAST.

While the report does not focus on medical technologies or MBANs-it rather intends to make the case for targeted auctions of shared spectrum for local devices unlikely to disrupt one another-the report nevertheless gives FCC's current proposal some additional support at a time when it is under consideration.

The non-binding report will potentially be utilized by the President in making requests of Congress, but no specific further action is required.

Read more:

PCAST - Realizing the Full Potential of Government-Held Spectrum to Spur Economic Growth

PCAST Documents & Reports

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