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15 August, 2006 - 15:31 By Staff Reporter

Wireless device provides local solution to global problem

The wireless wizards responsible for the creation of CSR have developed a new system that adapts the basic technology from a cordless phone to tackle a global epidemic.The wireless wizards responsible for the creation of CSR have developed a new system that adapts the basic technology from a cordless phone to tackle a global epidemic.

Cambridge Consultants, which spun out CSR in 1999, has teamed up with Philips to showcase how near-field communication (NFC) can be implemented in a potentially life-saving medical device.

According to the World Health Organisation, diabetes is classified as a worldwide epidemic with the number of people with the disease to double to 366m by 2030.

To tackle this growing crisis, the Cambridge Consultants concept device uses the unique characteristics of NFC to streamline treatment, by wirelessly linking a glucometer with an insulin pump.

The glucometer records the blood sugar reading and then recommends a bolus dose of insulin. If the patient accepts the dose, they swipe the glucometer against the insulin pump, which could be located beneath clothing, and the drug is delivered.

This confirmation feature, which Cambridge Consultants dubs ‘patient-in-the-loop dosing’, enhances confidence and security, and allows the user to modify dosage calculations for lifestyle reasons.

Cambridge Consultants believes NFC adds genuine user-friendly characteristics that would inspire confidence in medical applications like this. These include a more ergonomic process with a simple user interaction, improved accuracy of dosing, data logging for compliance monitoring, and the ability to make devices much more discreet – with a major reduction in the need to handle or disturb the device.

The system involves a professional implementation of DECT, technology that allows a cordless phone to communicate with the base station.

“The market for NFC-enabled medical products represents a significant opportunity,” according to Kirsten West, principal analyst with WTRS.

“Given that soon more than 30 per cent of the world’s population will be over the age of 65, the market for NFC in medical products will be driven by the development of the NFC-enabled mobile phone market, which we forecast to reach 57m units annually by 2009 with an 87 per cent CAGR over the five year period from 2006 through 2011.”

Richard Traherne, head of wireless communication from Cambridge Consultants, said: “NFC has the potential to be a catalyst in developing the efficiency and portability of medical devices for a number of applications.

“Initially, we’re developing a device that demonstrates NFC as a way of improving the management of diabetes, but we see strong potential for the technology in a wide array of medical applications including pain relief, asthma and respiratory care, gastric electrical stimulation therapy, and treatments for congestive heart failure or urinary urge incontinence.”

Dominique Brule, NFC segment marketing manager, mobile communication from Philips Semiconductors, said: “It is a testament to the versatility of the secure NFC technology that the variety of applications has now reached the medical arena.

“Everywhere we have been able to implement NFC the results, in terms of user satisfaction, have been excellent. NFC will improve medical care for patients in the hospital and at home, making it more efficient, effective, safe and less stressful for patients.”

Jointly developed by Philips and Sony, NFC has a working range of just 10 cm, differentiating it from most other wireless technologies that typically operate over distances measured in metres.

Unlike Bluetooth, a user must intentionally bring NFC devices into close proximity to make a connection, transfer information and then trigger the process.

A further advantage for medical device OEMs, according to Cambridge Consultants, is the low cost of adding NFC wireless technology to products. One half of the wireless system can be designed to operate passively, drawing its power ‘over the air’ from the active terminal and avoiding bulky and costly batteries – and battery charging.

This means that equipment may be wireless-enabled using an extremely low bill of materials, and with little or no impact on size.

It is envisaged that it will be used as a contactless identification and interconnection technology – enabling secure short-range communication between electronic devices, such as mobile phones, PDA’s, computers and payments terminals via a fast and easy wireless connection.

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