Networking News

Growth of Medical IoT Devices Prompts Wi-Fi AP Upgrades

The wireless access point market is expected to grow significantly in healthcare as IoT and connected medical devices become more common.

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

The latest projections foresee an eight-percent growth in the the wireless access point (AP) market by 2020, according to a Research and Markets report.

Wireless AP upgrade growth in healthcare

Wireless APs are necessary for the success of wearable medical devices because they require a constant connection with the wireless network. Another Research and Markets report predicts the wearable medical device market will grow at a CAGR of 18 percent by 2021.

According to the first report, one of the key drivers of the wireless AP market is the need for wide area network (WAN) coverage for critical industries such as public safety and healthcare with mobile and wearable technology users.

The second generation of the IEEE 802.11ac standard, 802.11ac Wave 2 uses MU-MIMO technology, which enables APs to relay information to multiple receivers at a time. The standard allows organizations to benefit from a wider wireless bandwidth for faster connections.

The 802.11ac standard supports more devices and wireless traffic making it ideal for healthcare organizations. The wider bandwidth allows more data to pass at once and the MU-MIMO technology supports IoT initiatives communicating with multiple devices at a time.

As organizations continue to introduce IoT and cloud solutions into their infrastructure, wireless APs become more critical to the success of other technology.

A healthcare organization’s wireless network is the first component of the IT infrastructure requiring evaluation before any IoT solutions are implemented. The IoT involves a rapid increase in the number of devices accessing the network, taking up more bandwidth. If an organization’s wireless network is not able to accommodate all the devices constantly seeking access, all devices connected to the network will suffer because of too much traffic.

When IoT initiatives are implemented along with other cloud services, legacy networks can no longer successfully support the traffic leading to outages during peak hours. Healthcare organizations cannot afford to have wireless service outages where EHRs cannot be retrieved during peak hours because patient’s health may be put at risk.

If organizations are not able to fully upgrade their network infrastructure, the 802.11ac standard is compatible with legacy standards such as 802.11n, so organizations do not have to fully commit to 802.11ac to deploy it in some areas.

Top wireless AP vendors are developing products to handle periods of high traffic volume along with the underlying constant connection of IoT devices. Vendors including Cisco, Aerohive, Ruckus, Extreme Networks, and HPE were included in the Research and Markets report and are aiming to produce APs that can improve enterprise operations.

Different APs are used for different parts of a healthcare facility depending on what a specific area requires. Some access points are made to serve patient rooms where guests are expected to access the network along with a generally slower paced work environment for medical professionals.

A different access point will be used in a more high traffic area such as an emergency room. While patient rooms may be able to function effectively on legacy access points, an 802.11ac AP allows faster access to EHRs and information because of the wider bandwidth and MU-MIMO technology.

For data centers and analytic repositories that may need to transfer large amounts of data all at once, WiGig solutions may be an effective solution. WiGig goes beyond standard dual-band 802.11ac technology by enabling the use of a third 60GHz band. The WiGig band allows extremely high frequency transmissions by directing data into a wider channel.

The strain IoT devices puts on wireless networks calls for upgrades from legacy APs that can’t handle high volumes of constant traffic. As connected medical devices become more common in health IT infrastructure, the wireless network needs to be able to support it.

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