WBAN or BAN, short for (Wireless) Body Area Network, consists of a set of mobile and compact intercommunicating sensors, either wearable or implanted into the human body, which monitor vital body parameters and movements . These devices, communicating through wireless technologies, transmit data from the body to a home base station, from where the data can be forwarded to a hospital, clinic or elsewhere, real-time.
The WBAN technology is still in its primitive stage and is being widely researched. The technology, once accepted and adopted, is expected to be a breakthrough invention in healthcare, leading to concepts like telemedicine and mHealth becoming real.
IEEE 802.15.6 is the task group for BAN.
Initial applications of WBANs are expected to appear primarily in the healthcare domain, especially for continuous monitoring and logging vital parameters of patients suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma and heart attacks.
A WBAN network in place on a patient can alert the hospital, even before he has a heart attack, through measuring changes in his vital signs.
A WBAN network on a diabetic patient could auto inject insulin though a pump, as soon as his insulin level declines, thus making the patient 'doctor-free' and virtually healthy.
Other applications of this technology include sports, military, or security. Extending the technology to new areas could also assist communication by seamless exchanges of information between individuals, or between individual and machines. Imagine businesspeople exchanging business cards, just with a handshake, with the help of BAN sensors. These applications might become reality with the WBAN implementation very soon.
Interoperability: WBAN systems would have to ensure seamless data transfer across standards such as Bluetooth, ZigBee etc. to promote information exchange, plug and play device interaction. Further, the systems would have to be scalable, ensure efficient migration across networks and offer uninterrupted connectivity.
The sensors used in WBAN would have to be low on complexity, small in form factor, light in weight, power efficient, easy to use and reconfigurable. Further, the storage devices need to facilitate remote storage and viewing of patient data as well as access to external processing and analysis tools via the Internet.
System and device-level security:
Considerable effort would be required to make BAN transmission secure and accurate. It would have to be made sure that the patient's data is only derived from each patient's dedicated BAN system and is not mixed up with other patient's data. Further, the data generated from WBAN should have secure and limited access.
Invasion of privacy:
People might consider the WBAN technology as a potential threat to freedom, if the applications go beyond 'secure' medical usage. Social acceptance would be key to this technology finding a wider application.