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FCC OKs On-Body Medical Networks

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the can-you-feel-the-waves? dept.

Medicine 41

itwbennett writes "On Wednesday the FCC approved the use of medical micropower networks (MMNs) in four blocks of the 400MHz spectrum band despite opposition from broadcast engineers who say they are concerned about interference. MMNs can be used to bypass areas of the nervous system that have been impaired by strokes or spinal cord or brain injuries."

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super kick-puncher (1)

ixidor (996844) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236272)

so we have milliwatt generators that can run off of blood sugar. Approved for a whole body network. how long till we can get a lela wrist pc?

Re:super kick-puncher (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38238050)

smartphone of choice + velcro strap = Leela's wrist PC.

How does this help me (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38236290)

with my plan on world domination?

Posting Anonymously for obvious reasons.

Re:How does this help me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38236312)

Pinky is that you ?

Re:How does this help me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38236544)

narf

Re:How does this help me (2)

michelcolman (1208008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38238138)

Apparently, a guy called Mark Zuckerberg is already investing in practical uses for this network in both sick and healthy people. Think about the possibilities! You no longer have to update your FaceBook status manually, your body will do it for you! Taking a leak... drinking beer... looking at girl... getting aroused... Together with the levels of blood sugar, testosterone,... Everything will be posted automatically without you even having to lift a finger. And you'll even receive relevant ads to enhance your experience even more. In time, more and more data will be posted automatically, always with the option of opting out of course.

Re:How does this help me (2)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38239844)

"Jim is at Wilton Public Library."

"Jim has added Mrs. Roswell as a friend."

"Jim has an erection."

One step closer (2)

idlehanz (1262698) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236324)

To getting "them internets" wired directly into the frontal lobe...

Re:One step closer (1)

AJH16 (940784) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236534)

But how will you fit all the tubes?

Re:One step closer (4, Funny)

silverglade00 (1751552) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236650)

He only needs/wants the red one.

Re:One step closer (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 2 years ago | (#38237168)

I don't want a truck stuck to mah head!

Re:One step closer (1)

idlehanz (1262698) | more than 2 years ago | (#38244446)

The borg seem to have figured it out. STTNG thought the Borg were in sleep mode. They were really watching porn that piped directly into their brain.

Re:One step closer (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38238262)

Imagine the potential for porn overload when pages can be fetched by mere thought...

And trolls will just have to tell you "remember the last time you saw goatse?"

This could go horribly wrong. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38236326)

Unless these devices have even the most basic of basic frequency-knocking or some sort of unique ID system, this could end up horribly wrong.
God forbid some poor people ended up next to each other and interfered with each other.

If they do, however, then alls good. Completely for it.
Frequency-knocking or ID systems would prevent any interference outside of malicious intent.
So the devices would essentially be safe in almost all cases.

Now the only worry would be EMP explosions that could completely nuke the circuit. Let's hope they thought of that...

Re:This could go horribly wrong. (2)

glop (181086) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236364)

As far as I am concerned, I'd want code multiplexing or other interference avoiding techniques. And then full encryption with authentication to make sure the components that have been paired and only them can give each other orders.
I mean, this is going to be some guy's way of commanding his limbs. Nobody wants a script kiddie to be able to play Darth Vader's grip of death with a poor guy's 'Luke' prosthetic arm that did not have adequate protection...

Re:This could go horribly wrong. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38236430)

This will not help. You are working with milliwatts, at most,, maybe even microwatt range.
A simple 10Watt FM transmitter modulated with white noise can make the complete frequency band unusable.
The cripple guy's legs will stop working the moment you switch this thing on. "Hilarity" ensues....

Re:This could go horribly wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38250558)

"Hilarity" ensues....

"Cruelness" ensues....

Fix for you..

Re:This could go horribly wrong. (5, Informative)

ATestR (1060586) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236372)

Actually, the real concern was interference from Amateur Radio signals. The frequency range that these devices plan to use is in the 440 - 450 MHz range... which is right where a bunch of the little hand held ham radio units operate. The ARRL (National Amateur Radio Association) was the biggest group against the proposed usage, and the FCC only permitted the use with the prevision that it was Secondary to the existing licensees (HAMs). In other words, the medical devices cannot interfere with the radios, and they have to be able to live with any signals produced by radios. Here [arrl.org] is an in depth article regarding the FCC grant.

Re:This could go horribly wrong. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38236732)

You're preaching to the choir. The FCC has made so MANY great decisions about spectrum sharing in the recent past. Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) and the wonderful Lightsquared LTE phone network debacle located right on top of the GPS band. They don't seem to grok the concept of "THESE DECISIONS MIGHT GET PEOPLE KILLED!"

Am I over reacting here?

If I can't take my cell phone into a medical area for fear of screwing up some life critical device in a medical office, why in the hell does the FCC think that the technology of these systems is going to be so good that my 1W 440Mhz transmitter isn't going to overload the little receiver and kill someone?

I'm currently working on a commercial project that uses an extremely low power RF system. These systems are NOT robust because they can't afford the power or the real estate to do so! What filtering - and from and IN-BAND multi-watt transmitter. Don't forget - I'm allowed to put out a KW! (Well not here in CA - something about Beale Air Force Base..)

STOOOPID!

Re:This could go horribly wrong. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38237824)

I've noted a number of devices popping up in the 70cm band that fall right inside the amateur radio primary allocation. Note PRIMARY.

So they are probably Part 15 devices, in that they cannot generate interference to the primary user, and must shield against or accept interference from the primary user.

Re:This could go horribly wrong. (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38240438)

which is right where a bunch of the little hand held ham radio units operate.

And a bunch of medium sized mobile units and a bunch of larger sized base units, and a whole passle of big repeater units.

What an interesting irony: I have a 600W ERP 440MHz repeater installed on the top of the local hospital. It will be amazing, 83 people going into epileptic fits every time someone pushes the PTT button...

In other words, the medical devices cannot interfere with the radios,

This is about the most dishonest way of allowing intruding devices into an existing band. Since these are spread spectrum emitters, it is very unlikely that any one of them will directly interfere with anything. When you get 100 or 1000 of these all going at the same time, however, you'll be raising the noise floor for the entire band. That makes it much harder to communicate overall, but you cannot pin the interference to any specific device, or even detect the interference until the devices become common enough that removing them would be impossible.

This is the same kind of problem that BPL has. One test site doesn't do too much damage. Wide scale implementation will make it impossible to talk more than a mile or two due to noise.

As for ever being able to identify the interference, how many doctors do you know would think "this device isn't working because of the ham transmitter on the next hilltop over", and how many hams are going to be able to identify that intermittent noise on the input of their repeater as being from some wired person standing nearby?

Frequency Hopping (1)

pryoplasm (809342) | more than 2 years ago | (#38247630)

But for the medical devices, could a circuit with fast enough frequency hopping be resistant to being jammed by your repeater.

So they might accept interference for some fraction of a second then hop onto the next frequency on the table. If a patient is having issues with interference from devices, they should be able change the table of frequencies it gets chosen from.

Wiki link for those interested in more about frequency hopping http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frequency-hopping_spread_spectrum [wikipedia.org]

Re:This could go horribly wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38247118)

You've got some details wrong. The 70cm ham radio band is 420-450MHz. The primary user is the pave/paws government radar system. Hams are already secondary on these frequencies. 440-450mhz includes uses by not just 5W handhelds, but also higher powered repeaters (up to 1500W) placed in high positions.

Re:This could go horribly wrong. (1, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236406)

God forbid some poor people ended up next to each other and interfered with each other

Look at the bright side: in a few years time, when everybody has their very own body network, you'll be able to say "hey sweety, care if I insert my connector into your hub for some data sharing? No no, not there, the head socket will do just fine".

Re:This could go horribly wrong. (1)

azalin (67640) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236542)

I'd guess in case of a large enough emp blast, there might be some more pressing problems to attend to.

Re:This could go horribly wrong. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38236628)

Now the only worry would be EMP explosions that could completely nuke the circuit. Let's hope they thought of that...

They probably thought:

If somebody is doing an intention EMP burst, they're doing it for a purpose, and that purpose is likely intended to be against infrastructure in general.

It's like being concerned about an oxygen tank being ignited by a firebomb, chances are the problem is already hitting you hard.

Re:This could go horribly wrong. (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236796)

God forbid some poor people ended up next to each other and interfered with each other.

Wait, wait... maybe if some people with this tech embedded in them got next to each other and it made them more powerful? And getting enough of those people together could make them more powerful still?

They could be like some Justice League or something, only they'd always have to stay in each others' general vicinity.

I'm just putting that out there. I'm not saying that's what would happen, just, like, that could totally happen. And it would be cool.

Re:This could go horribly wrong. (1)

dvoecks (1000574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38239400)

It might just mean less practice required for a chorus-line or synchronized swim team! Any untalented hack with the right implant could walk in off the street and become one of the Rockettes!

Re:This could go horribly wrong. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38240522)

Oh, don't worry, the FDA and EU/CE have mandated "Design Controls" and "Risk Analysis" for all medical devices. Here is a story about how those regulations helped one medical device manufacturer ensure that their product wouldn't hurt anybody. The product is implantable, and occasionally RF programmed, I won't name the condition it treats because that would clearly identify my former employer. The implant has a programmable intensity scale, from 1 to 32, with 1 being nearly indistinguishable from off, and 32 having the potential to stop some patients' heart, anything over 15 is usually painful to the patient. Clinical trials determined that best therapeutic response was usually found at settings between 5 and 8, the device was approved for use in humans on settings 0 through 10. To avoid any changes to the implantable software (which would trigger a costly re-validation), the intensity limitation was implemented in the external programmer software.

The programmer communicates with the implant using a 100KHz inductively coupled signal, this is common throughout the implantable industry (pacemakers, defibrillators, neurostimulators, etc.) simple mark-space coding of a low rate RS-232 signal. Note that RFID and "inventory control" systems (those big panels you walk through on the way in/out of Wal-Mart, Target, and many other stores), bathe you in high intensity 100KHz-ish RF energy. The implants use checksums to prevent accidental re-programming of the devices. Mind you, this particular implant could be reprogrammed to a highly painful, potentially fatal, intensity level of 32 if the exact 32 bits required to command a high setting were received. That's the whole reprogramming command, the checksum portion is only 8 bits.

After about 40,000 patients were implanted with a couple of generations of the device (later generations maintained the same interface scheme for cross-compatibility with the earlier implants), a handful of reports were received about spurious programming errors causing intense pain. The highly paid engineer / professional witness had already analyzed the probability of a spurious programming error and mathematically determined that it would be some billions of implant years between random programming events. According to his analysis, even with 40,000 implantees, it should still be tens of thousands of years between random events. Four documented events in the previous six months pointed to a flaw in his analysis.

Upon closer inspection, it was discovered that a normal programming event to a setting of 8 was identical in the first 18 bits to a command which programs a setting of 32. The remaining 14 bits for a setting of 32 are all zeroes (yes, the checksum for that, potentially lethal, setting is all zeroes). Zeroes are decoded during an absence of RF energy. The nurses were pulling the programmer away from the implant too early, causing the later bits to all register as zeroes. The troubleshooting team determined that the programming software could use a different programming mode which is not vulnerable to this "pull away" scenario, enabling an efficient solution that did not involve surgery for any of the 40,000 implantees. Nobody died, the nurses were all able to successfully reprogram the device within an agonizing minute or so back to a safe setting. But, the company did get a little worried when one of the documented mis-programming case patients disappeared, never to be seen again, a month or so after the mis-programming event. That was when they ordered the investigation.

Every step of the process was overseen by design control regulation, all the proper risk analyses were performed and audited by the appropriate regulatory agencies. After roughly 100,000 implants were sold, the "next generation" device finally made it through the design controls and review process. This new device upgraded communication security with a bigger checksum - now 16 bits instead of 8. It is still programmable to a setting of 32, but not with approved clinical programming software.

If you work at a retail checkout, or as a greeter at Wal-Mart, you are constantly bathed in RF energy which, at just the right distance from the transmitter (said distance being in the 2 to 4 foot range from the door-guard panels), that energy can trigger either a 1 or a 0 to be received by an implantable device's programming port. Yes, this could go horribly wrong, but with the billions of man-years of pacemaker / defibrillator / neurostimulator experience already acquired, it seems that you'd have a better chance of picking six in the lotto in a single try.

Why wireless (4, Interesting)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236382)

In some instances, like communicating to implants from the outside without breaching the skin barrier, I can understand the use of radio signals - although induction sounds simpler, less power-hungry and more localized to me.

But for implant-to-implant communication? This reminds me furiously of the wireless bicycle odometer idiocy, whereby a transmitter is used to transmit wheel rotation signals a couple of feet up to the odometer proper, using two batteries instead of one, and making the entire thing more expensive, less reliable and more prone to signal jamming, just for the sake of not running a 2-ft cable up a brake cable.

If they're going to implant devices in someone's organism, they should just run wires under the skin: bio-compatible materials exist that wires can be made of (heck, they're already implanting the devices anyway), they'll get better throughput and latency, the devices will require less power, will be less complicated, and more importantly, will be immune to outside signals.

Re:Why wireless (3, Insightful)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236464)

Well, I mean I could be an idiot here ( I'm definitely no doctor and my knowledge here is quite limited), but doesn't that make the surgery much more complex and invasive? I mean, with wireless you're basically implanting one or two radio receiver/transmitters (One in the case of a robotic limb which will have it own r/t technically "outside" the body, two if they're trying to bypass nerve damage). That's pretty straightforward work. One incision, install the r/t, sew it up. With implanted wires you're going to have to make long, fairly deep, incisions all down the path between the two wired r/t devices, no? That's a lot of extra pain for the patient, a lot of additional sites for infection, a lot longer surgery, etc. Plus what do you do if the cable breaks? Rip it all out and start over? You can usually repair cable, but at least outside the body it's rarely as strong as it was originally.

Re:Why wireless (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236688)

Are you a cable TV technician?

Re:Why wireless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38238566)

Well, we know he's not a brain surgeon.

Re:Why wireless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38238286)

I foresee armies of nano-bot electricians taking a few weeks to string pico-cables through my abdomen.

Naturally, this will only be possible after the development of femto-donuts.

Re:Why wireless (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38240724)

Wires in the body are bad. Very bad when you get an MRI. The problem with wireless is that it takes batteries to make it go, batteries wear out, wireless communication makes batteries wear out faster. Most implantables only use wireless for brief, occasional communication. The surgery required to replace batteries (which, to the glee of the CEOs, always means replacing the entire implant), is risky and inconvenient. So, unless an implant can be sited directly on the structure(s) it wants to electrically stimulate/sense, it will have wires. They're supposed to ask you about your implants before you get an MRI. With the millions of MRIs given every year, mistakes are made. On rare occasions, the tips of the implanted wires get hot, tissue damaging hot. Unfortunately, the most common place for an implanted wire tip to be located is on the heart... the victims don't usually die, right away, although some do need to get their pacing lead re-sited. ("right away" is a joke, everybody dies eventually.)

Re:Why wireless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38237174)

It's not idiocy. Only the notion of the lower end computers having wireless cadence and speed centers is idiocy. I was LIVID when my trash Cateye wireless computer kept losing sync, stopped on the side of the road, and smashed it with my cleat. I then went back to the wired model after cleaning and readjusting contacts that kept making it go haywire.
 
The upper end stuff NEEDS wireless, and the ANT2+ stuff works. It would be a little harder to switch bikes, and that extra cable *IS* easily snagged. Also, what are you going to do about hub shell power sensors? Use brushes?!

Re:Why wireless (1)

leftover (210560) | more than 2 years ago | (#38240156)

Definitely agree with this! Promoting wireless for this application sounds like either a buzzword-driven Pointy-Haired Boss or a paid shill for a wireless chipset. Induction coupling works if the signal needs to come out through the skin (and power needs to get in.) It can be shielded easily too, with a thin mu-metal pad on the outside of the external coil.

Re:Why wireless (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38240820)

bio-compatible materials exist that wires can be made of

Bio-compatible implantable wires are a good deal more complex, failure prone, and expensive than a titanium can. The wires need to stretch with the body and be fully insulated. Stainless steel coils inside silicon sheaths are used - it's not as simple or robust as the 18 gauge romex in your house. The junction from wire to implant can is also a problem that you can't solve with wire-nuts.

FAIuLZORS? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38238152)

irc.easy8ews.com

Wireless? No thanks (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38238154)

I'd prefer wired or optical wherever possible. Wireless could be OK for some things, like implant status monitoring or emergency diagnostics / manual override (using strong authentication of course). For something important like linking a prosthetic limb to your spine? Bad idea, too easy to jam, and the completely unnecessary potential for black hats to impersonate the control signal is not a good thing.

Re:Wireless? No thanks (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38240852)

Optical implantable leads will be a good thing, if they can ever get the transciever efficiency up.

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