Timestamp-free synchronization for wireless body area networks

Longer life from wearable sensor networks combined with precise data time-stamping

Software & Information Technology Medical & Biotechnology

A Navy researcher has advanced the capabilities of biosignal telemonitoring, a growing area of research with commercial applicabilities due to the aging world population.

A wireless body area network (WBAN) is a wireless network of wearable computing devices or sensors. WBAN devices may include sensors to monitor ECG, EEG, blood pressure, temperature, glucose, and other data from inside or outside the body.

Sensors feed data to a central device on or near the body which then transmits it directly to the internet or a subsequent device such as a smartphone, tablet, or computer. One challenge in designing WBAN’s has been minimizing power consumption.

Multiple sensors can pull a lot of power and transmission protocols including analog-to-digital conversion are power intensive. A second challenge has been ensuring accurate time stamping of data. It’s critical to know when sensor recordings are taken – especially with heart rate variability – and current solutions to time stamping can vary by minutes over a month.

To address these and other shortcomings of WBAN’s, a Navy researcher has developed methods to lower the energy use of these networks and provide for accurate time stamping. The system incorporates a master node which collects data from the individual biosensors. The biosensors communicate biodata to the master node along with implicit timing information and only if that timing information is outside of a predefined synchronization is an adjustment sent back to the sensor.

The time stamping algorithm in the master node ensures accuracy. This configuration minimizes data packet transfers and thereby saves power. As wearable technology becomes more commonplace and healthcare providers see the further benefit and cost savings in remote monitoring, this technology will become more valuable.

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