802.16.6-2012, the Body Area Networking standard got lots of early moral support from gadget makers, bionic-geek-wannabes, do-it-yourself audio- and data-philes as well as road warriors and mobile-data gurus hoping to be able to keep syncing after losing all the expensive, inconvenient wires that have made their lives a … well, a smidge less convenient than they would be otherwise.
IEEE 802.15.6-2012 provides "myriad opportunities to create a wide variety of new products and capabilities aimed at enhancing people’s comfort and well being in ways we can only begin to imagine," according to Art Astrin, chair of the IEEE 802.15.6 Task Group.
The new BAN spec is designed for ultra-short range ("close to or inside a human body"), low power, data rates up to 10 Mbit/sec, the ability to overcome radio or magnetic interference, need for secure encryption and the reliability of a networking protocol that double-checks the contents and arrival of packets, as wired Ethernet does.
Body networks are for more than just MP3s and gaming
However, the new BAN spec wasn't created just to make it easier to copy a playlist from your iPod to your iPhone.
It supports the specific parts of the radio spectrum reserved for medical or regulatory authorities and devices and supports quality-of-service (QoS) requirements that would allow for connections to devices less consciously designed for the failure of networks around them than the iPod.
The BAN spec does allow for the interconnection of entertainment devices, but is also designed for secure, reliable network connections among medical diagnostic, treatment and testing devices, collection agents that gather telemetry from medical monitors and sends it off for remote diagnosis, connect to glucose sensors and dispensers or other devices inserted under a patient's skin.
IEEE 802.15.6-2012 "underscores our commitment to the realization of a true body area network to meet the challenges of achieving far-ranging and futuristic solutions for healthcare, prosthetics, implants and a variety of novel consumer uses," Astrin said in the IEEE announcement of the new BAN.
Members of MIT 'Safety Net' with early versions of wearable computers, circa 1996. Credit: Steve Mann