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Could home area networking be good for our health?

Woman on mobile phone

Earlier this year, Wi-SUN announced the introduction of its certification program for the Enhanced Home Area Network (HAN) communications profile – an interoperable and scalable low power wireless standard for Home Area Networks – which supports communication between Home Energy Management Systems or HEMS and any HAN devices.

The program is available for a wide range of consumer, enterprise and operator-specific products, and we expect see most benefit for home appliances. We’re already seeing a large number of IoT-based applications within the home, and they are becoming increasingly interconnected, especially with devices like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home. In fact the rise of the smart speaker seems to be an unstoppable force, with the latest research from NPR and Edison research showing that 43 million people in the US now own one!

While we will see more interconnectivity between these applications, we are already seeing HAN being optimized for applications like predictive health care in the home.

The ImPACT program, developed by Dr Hiroshi Harada, professor at Kyoto University in Japan and one of the founding members of Wi-SUN Alliance, is using Wi-SUN technology as part of a wireless communications network that connects medical devices in the home to create ultra big data for personal health care analysis. As Chairman of the Wi-SUN HAN working group, he has a close interest in the technology of course, but is combining multiple communications standards, including Wi-SUN, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, as part of the program.

Here’s how it works. Environment sensors are connected to the network via gateways put in each room of the house to measure environmental factors, such as temperature and humidity levels, and to show how they affect physical activity. Physiological data is also collected like blood pressure using monitoring devices, while wrist-worn monitors collect activity and sleep data, as well as calorie consumption. Patients also weigh themselves each day and the data is sent to the network via the wristband.

The important thing is that the technology is designed to be non-intrusive. The patient should be able to live a normal life while all-important health and medical data is collected as they move around their home. The gateways share pairing information with each other using Wi-SUN HAN so the wristband is connected to the nearest gateway as they move around.

Uploaded to the cloud, the data is then analyzed by the doctor and used to detect any abnormalities. If the data indicates any abnormal symptoms, the health care program incorporating big data analysis automatically detects a change and notifies the patient’s doctor. The doctor can respond quickly and advise on any medical intervention before serious problems occur.

While Japan is well documented as having a rapidly ageing population, this is by no means a localized issue. We are currently facing a global problem, which will result in one of the most significant social transformations of our time and have a huge impact on our healthcare systems.

Projects like this show that IoT-based applications in the home have the potential to deliver real benefits to society and to support the health and welfare of our ageing population.