New machine-to-machine (M2M)-based cloud applications for home monitoring can help patients manage their health conditions at home, while giving healthcare providers access to up-to-date patient information. But these professional monitoring devices have consumer-like demands. They need to be easy to set up, connect, and use. They need to protect patients’ sensitive personal health information. And developers of these systems need to be able to quickly respond to market changes with new products, using standards-based platforms and network protocols. Our roundtable discussion explores how the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework supports remote monitoring systems that deliver the management, connectivity, and security features required for effective patient care. Our roundtable participants are:
Intel Roving Reporter: The market for remote medical monitoring devices is heating up, putting additional pressure on developers to get to market faster with competitive products. How can you help them get there?
Satish Ram, Kontron: Kontron provides a suite of application-ready platforms that are Intel Intelligent Systems Framework (ISF) ready, by offering various connectivity, scalability and security options as well as meeting healthcare-specific compliance requirements (PCI, HIPAA, EN50134, etc.). Our human-machine interface (HMI) and M2M products are examples of such products targeted at the healthcare vertical. These platforms come with a development platform that is already pre-integrated to connect up to other ISF-ready systems.
The Kontron M2M Developer Kit is a compact platform that integrates its COM Express® mini Pin-out Type 10 compatible COMe-mTT family of Computer on Modules (COMs) based on the Intel® Atom™ processor E640 1 GHz. The external USB port simplifies use of M2M SDKs, and offers sufficient storage for M2M smart service applications, middleware and OS on the 4 gigabyte (GB) internal MicroSD card. The kit also supports a full range of wireless interfaces, protocols and network topologies.
Mike Ueland, Telit Wireless Solutions: Telit offers an extensive portfolio of quality cellular, short-range, and GNSS modules, available in over 80 countries. By supplying business-scalable products that are interchangeable across families, technologies, and generations, Telit is able to keep development costs low and uniquely protect customers' design investments. Telit provides customer support, design-in expertise through its sales and support offices, and offers a global distributor network of wireless experts in over 30 Telit-designated competence centers that work with customers to develop concepts and ideas to realize their solutions.
Telit offers a form factor family concept, allowing developers to develop one application for different markets. M2M modules belonging to a family have the same form factor and functionalities—the same size and shape, same pin-outs, and same AT command set. Design once, deploy globally. The advantage for remote medical monitoring device developers and electronic manufactures is that all modules in a family are interchangeable. When the time comes, developers can easily replace family modules with successor products such as would happen in a switch from 2G to 3G. The unified form factor feature reduces development effort, time, and costs, protecting investment in core designs.
Steve Popovich, Digi International: Digi provides several easy-to-integrate connectivity products and services used for connecting medical devices and sensors in thousands of hospitals and home healthcare applications. We have commercial medical device customers that create prototype remote monitoring systems in just a few days.
RR: What do designers need to know about connectivity standards—from wireless to cellular—as they develop these devices that may be sold for use anywhere?
Satish Ram, Kontron: Solutions designers need to become familiar with WPAN, WLAN, and WWAN connectivity options and the current adoption trends towards Bluetooth Low Energy for medical devices. In addition, for use of cellular WWAN solutions, designers need to ensure compliance with regulatory certifications such as FCC, CE, PTCRB, GCF or others depending on the country and deployment regions. Also, wireless data services can vary significantly from one country to another as do wireless frequency bands for cellular networks. Kontron can help customers navigate this complex ecosystem and make it easier for deploying solutions quickly.
Mike Ueland, Telit Wireless Solutions: There are a number of requirements to consider, including speed, coverage, deployment plans, costs , data plans and hardware, carrier relations, and the expected product lifecycle. In the majority of cases, the cellular module is the most important component in the process of integrating M2M into electronic devices like those used for remote medical monitoring.
Cellular data transmission speeds go up from 2G where GPRS speeds are rated in a few tens of Kbps to the current release of LTE (4G) of 100 Mbps. There are a number of trade-offs. The higher the connection speed you require, the higher the price of the module and associated connectivity data plans. Today, 3G enjoys nearly as much geographical and population coverage as 2G. 3G will soon have a larger footprint than GSM when U.S. carriers start sun-setting their 2G service. Therefore, 3G will continue to be the long term “everywhere” cellular coverage for many more years.
Steve Popovich, Digi International: One of cool benefits of our iDigi connectivity architecture is we can support ALL of the domestic and international wireless standards and little or no wireless experience is required by the developer! Developers using our iDigi architecture only need to create the business application and not be concerned with the details of what wireless technology is needed for deployment. For example we have healthcare customers that create a single business application that can incorporate several different wireless connectivity technologies to economically support multiple unique end customer use cases.
RR: Since these remote devices are being used by consumers, not healthcare or technical professionals, what are some strategies you advise developers to use to make sure these are easy to set up, connect, maintain, and use?
Satish Ram, Kontron: Focusing on ease of use and ‘ready out of the box’ solutions is key for consumer adoption. Leveraging frameworks such as ISF will help developers ensure seamless integration to various subsystems and automate much of the functionality to improve user experience. As an example, home healthcare devices should automatically detect new devices and ‘pair’ with them without any user intervention. So, the consumer can purchase a BLE weight scale that auto-connects and displays the data on his/her smartphone with a simple downloaded app.
Mike Ueland, Telit Wireless Solutions: There are development tools that can aid or make it easier for developers to design applications. Many firms have been successful using the Agile software development process. The Agile process promotes adaptive planning, evolutionary development and design with an interactive approach that encourages faster responses that are flexible to change. The Agile manifesto establishes that developers, in their approach to application development, limit the amount of work in progress to reduce the impact of sudden business changes.
Customer collaboration and the user experience with the application are critical in the development process. Therefore, continuous customer and stakeholder involvement is required. In order to deliver on this key aspect, Agile establishes smaller, faster development cycles that deliver functioning software sooner, which in turn limits the total body of work in progress. This has the effect of testing hypotheses about required functionality much earlier than other methods allowing developers and business sponsors to quickly prove or disprove them. The bottom line is that developers need be strategic about developing applications for the consumer.
Steve Popovich, Digi International: Our iDigi Manager Pro services provide an almost infinitely scalable connectivity platform for our customers. Our iDigi Manager pro services enable our customers to automate the remote configuration, commissioning, and ongoing management of millions of devices. Via our iDigi APIs developers can also elegantly integrate our features into custom applications.
RR: Security is always an issue when discussing the management of personal health information. How are you helping developers address this in their products?
Satish Ram, Kontron: Security is of paramount importance in many applications, and especially so in healthcare applications. Kontron’s products leverage the ISF security framework components, including Trusted Platform Module (TPM) and WindRiver Secure Remote Management (SRM) software, to ensure data privacy and security.
Mike Ueland, Telit Wireless Solutions: Cellular data communication is inherently very secure—substantially more so than traditional data communication. In addition to the security already built into cellular data, we provide the remote medical monitoring device integrator with a comprehensive set of IP protocols designed to enhance this security. A key element of this toolkit is the embedded SSL protocol available in all our modules. The use of SSL over cellular IP data, augmented by best practices in two-way challenges and other identification, authentication and security measures ensures that personal health information is communicated in the most secure manner possible.
Steve Popovich, Digi International: Digi provides several security options for both wired and wireless products and services. For example even our most basic wireless modules integrated inside of medical devices support complex encryption methods that prevent data from being read by network analyzers. For security purposes medical device and patient identification information is only combined beyond connectivity services platform.
Solutions in this blog:
• Medical - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)
• Connectivity - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)
Kontron is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.
Digi International is an Associate members of the Alliance.
Telit Wireless Solutions is an Associate members of the Alliance.
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance
Freelance technology writer & editor (scribo.net)