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Healthcare Internet of Things Seeks Advanced 5G Wireless

Healthcare Internet of Things devices seek reliable and fast cellular connectivity as 5G wireless research continues.

The healthcare Internet of Things depends on 5G wireless advancement.

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Healthcare Internet of Things (IoT) devices are gaining popularity, which calls for a better way to connect the devices to the network using fifth generation cellular (5G) wireless technology.

The increasing number of devices connecting to the network can cause bottle-necking and slow services if all of the devices are seeking to connect at the same time via Wi-Fi. Many healthcare IoT devices are leveraging wireless cellular networks.

Entities use cellular connections over WiFi because it’s more reliable and allows the devices to be truly mobile. Each medical IoT device has an antenna that connects the device to the healthcare network, Taoglas Co-Founder and Co-CEO Dermot O’Shea told HITInfrastructure.com in a previous interview.

“Most organizations use cellular because it’s the only reliable way to really communicate with the devices,” O’Shea explained. “If you’re only using Wi-Fi then you’re relying on the user, patient or caregiver to do all the Wi-Fi connectivity in terms of selecting the Wi-Fi network and putting in the password.” 

Wireless cellular networks give health IT networks a break from IoT devices passing into and out of the premises. Cellular networks let devices keep the same connection as it travels from place to place, without having to disconnect and reconnect to various wireless networks.

Cellular networks also provide relief for on-premises network deployments by taking on much of the IoT traffic during peak hours, which would otherwise slow down the network.

“Cellular is more robust in an environment,” continued O’Shea. “It’s never a problem if too many people are using cellular to log onto the network like it is with WiFi. That’s often the problem in a hospital. There’s too many people using the network at the same time and it slows down the network. “

5G has been in development for some time to improve upon 4G LTE technology to better support wireless devices of all types. 5G will support millimeter wave length radio frequency and the evolution of LTE, which will be considered by many to be part of 5G heterogeneous networks, according to a recent Research and Markets report.

The report predicts that large-scale commercial trials will increase by five times through 2021. Report authors also predict that 5G will have a large impact on IoT devices, haptic internet, virtual reality, and robotics.

Healthcare organizations are eager to embrace IoT devices because they save money by keeping patients out of the hospital.

“If IoT devices can diagnose people in advance then that saves huge costs,” explained O’Shea. “We can see nothing but benefits from medical devices being connected. Working with medical device companies brings a much larger delta of savings and benefits than any other vertical.”

The benefits of 5G in healthcare has prompted vendors to collaborate and seek a standardized technology to improve device connectivity.

Earlier this year Qualcomm, Ericsson, and AT&T announced plans to collaborate and conduct interoperability testing and over-the-air field trials based on the expected 5G New Radio (NR) specifications underdevelopment by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP).

The partnership was formed in response to the demand for advanced wireless technology for enterprises seeking new revenue streams requiring mobile or remote data exchanges, such as telehealth and remote care.

Vendors and customers alike seeking faster and more reliable cellular connections, but much testing still needs to be conducted before a standard technology can be deployed.

"The roadmap of 5G technologies is complex, and collaborations such as this are critical to ensuring timely deployment of 5G networks," Qualcomm Technologies Executive Vice President and CTO Matt Grob said on the collaboration. "The 3GPP-based trials we are planning with AT&T and Ericsson will help us accelerate integration of advanced 5G New Radio technologies in form-factor accurate devices, building upon our long history of 3G and 4G LTE leadership and paving the path to wide-scale 5G deployments."

Healthcare IoT devices are valuable to organizations because of the insight and monitoring services they provide. However, as more devices are introduced into health IT infrastructures, the more robust and reliable the network needs to be. 5G research is important to entities because its success will allow them to embrace more IoT devices.