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IEEE releases new BAN standard

Posted: 22 May 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:body area networks? IEEE 802.15.6?

The IEEE has released a new standard for short-range body area networks, nearly five years after committee work on it began.

The IEEE 802.15.6 specifies a link that delivers up to 10 Mb/s over distances as long as three meters.

Unlike other short-range, low power wireless technologies, 15.6 takes into account use on or inside the human body, "a bag of water that does nasty things to channel models," said Bob Heile, chairman of 802.15.

The new standard is expected to see use in a wide range of worn body sensors, implants and sports and fitness devices. High bandwidth versions will carry data from retina implants, lower bandwidth versions could be used to track stress on prosthetic limbs or link sensors that measure heart rate and other factors.

The standard is expected to replace a wide variety of proprietary radios. It aims to offer a more robust alternative to links such as Bluetooth Low Energy and the 15.4 standard that delivers just 250 Kb/s over distances up to 300m for applications such as home and building automation.

The 15.6 standard is already specified for use with the 400MHz medical wireless band in the U.S. Heile said he expects extensions to the standard to address the 2.3GHz spectrum opening up in the U.S. for medical apps as well as three bands China set aside for medical uses.

Engineers from as many as 60 companies helped define the standard, including representatives from chip makers such as Broadcom, Freescale, Intel, NXP, Qualcomm, Renesas and Texas Instruments. The group also included engineers from top consumer and medical companies such as GE, Medtronic, Philips and Samsung.

"This effort routinely attracted 60-100 people to meetings six times a yearthere's a lot of interest in this one," said Heile.

Consumer devices likely will be the first to ship with the new radios. Medical devices have longer design cycles and face the need for regulatory approvals.

Initially, OEMs are expected to roll their own higher-level protocols and software stacks for the physical later and media access controllers the 15.6 spec defines. "The standard can run TCP-IP, but beyond that it will need some protocol development early on, and that will depend on individual company's intended uses," Heile said.

"I wouldn't be surprised in time to see industry groups emerge like Zigbee [to define 15.6 protocols], but so far there's just talk about that," he added.

"The existence of a body area network standard provides a myriad of opportunities to create a wide variety of new products and capabilities aimed at enhancing people's comfort and well-being in ways we can only begin to imagine," said Art Astrin, chair of the 802.15.6 Task Group, speaking in a press statement.

"Discussions were spirited" on details of the standard, said Heile, explaining why the work took nearly five years.

- Rick Merritt
??EE Times

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