Gone are the days of cables and wires getting entangled beside our gadgets. We live in the wireless era with almost all our technology being mobile.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) or Bluetooth Smart technology takes us further into the future of wireless personal area networks. It allows gadgets to wirelessly communicate with each other, building an intelligent network of smart everyday objects that drastically improves our lifestyle.
It was first introduced by Nokia in 2006 under the name Wibree, and then merged with the main Bluetooth standard in 2010. It stands out among other similar technologies because it provides the same communication range with minimal power consumption at a much lesser cost.
BLE is an application friendly technology that is supported by every major operating system such as, OS X, Linux, and Windows 8, as well as mobile operating systems like iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry.
BLE technology has been widely used to create a variety of sensors and devices in the sports, fitness and healthcare industries, the fact that it can operate for months and years on a button cell are a definite plus.
The use of BLE in healthcare applications has completely transformed the way a person’s health is monitored – either at home or in a hospital. BLE technology has been used to develop healthcare applications that monitor a patient’s blood pressure, temperature, blood glucose, heart rate, and more.
There is no end to the extent of healthcare devices that can be developed using BLE technology. One can even build an entire wireless network of such wearable devices. These devices can serve a number of purposes and can come in all shapes and sized based on their intended use.
BLE healthcare devices can be implanted in the body, worn on the body, or even carried along as an accompanied device. They enable the continuous monitoring of a person’s health by logging their vital parameters.
When these healthcare devices are connected to the respective medical practitioner’s mobile devices, they are alerted when there is an emergency. It is also possible to store the patient’s vital information in the cloud, so other medical professionals from across the globe can pitch in if there is a need.
Based on the roles they play, BLE healthcare devices can be broadly categorized into two:
Peripheral devices and Central devices.
The peripheral devices are programmed to just collect the vital information and send it to the central device. The peripheral devices usually remain in sleep mode as much as possible to save the battery charge.
The central devices are programmed to receive the data sent by the peripheral devices, perform the required processes and transmit/store the information in the cloud. These gateway devices usually have more processing power and require more bandwidth.
The implementation of BLE technology in the healthcare industry offer several advantages over traditional monitoring methodologies.
Some of the advantages are:
- Smaller size
- Less power consumption
- Configurable output power
- Less expensive
- Adaptable to all major smartphones and tablets
BLE provides for robust, reliable connections, along with features such as event-driven data acquisition, sensitivity to proximity, and time synchronization. This sensor based, data collection framework runs on low power batteries and can be integrated with most handheld devices.
We hope this article has helped shed some light on how BLE technology can be leveraged to build enhanced, portable medical devices that can be used in homes and hospitals alike.