"You want to keep these devices within a reasonable cost range, and this bandwidth is close to Bluetooth, so it allows you to use common transmitter chips," said Mark Brager, associate vice president of communications at the Advanced Medical Technology Association. AdvaMed is one of the organizations pushing for passage of the MBAN frequency range.
The proposed MBAN frequencies are currently used by several private and public sector organizations for aeronautical mobile telemetry and federal radiolocation tasks, and by amateur radio users. The aeronautical industry, which uses the bands to dispatch telemetry information during aircraft testing, has put up the greatest resistance to the proposed MBAN request.
"We want to make sure we respect aeronautical industry that already uses this space," Coos said, adding that steps would be taken to make sure "we're not going to interfere with that."
Philips and other medical equipment manufacturers see the MBAN networks as an opportunity to sell products to hospitals and for home health care. Some say monitoring devices could be comparable to Band-Aids or patches and cost as little as $5 to $10 apiece. The devices could be used at home by patients with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, they said.
"In fact, we can leverage existing portable technologies, so the development cycle for these devices would be shortened. I'd imaging within a few years we will be seeing [MBAN] devices become available," said Delroy Smith, technical product design lead for Philips Healthcare's informatics and patient-monitoring business.
MBAN, combined with the emergence of consumer health electronics such as portable electrocardiogram (ECG) devices, blood pressure monitors or weight scales would allow patients to seamlessly capture and deliver health data from home, at work or on the road. Portable ECGs, for instance, weigh just 3.5 oz. and allow outpatients to record electrical heart signals and transmit the results to their doctors.
Advances in microprocessor technology are expected to allow such devices to connect wirelessly with home computers, mobile phones or even remote Internet applications.
The MBAN networks could be used by other wireless medical technologies that are starting to emerge.
For example, health care experts say work is under way to develop bandages or bracelets that can monitor and transmit vital signs and patient locations. The technology could also be used in emerging database-enabled tools, such as blood sugar monitors that transmit data to central databases.