Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

CTIA: Wearable health technology still faces security challenges

Iain Morris
September 17, 2014
Security remains the biggest challenge for the M2M industry when it comes to making use of wearable technologies to support healthcare services.

Analysts and industry representatives gathered at the International M2M Conference during last week’s CTIA tradeshow were in broad agreement that players must work on tackling security threats if they are to drive the adoption of connected wearables in the healthcare industry.

The problem is clearly a bigger one for healthcare providers using M2M technology in hospitals and homes than it is for consumers making use of fitness and activity trackers.

“Security is the biggest issue,” said Syed Zaeem Hosain, the chief technology officer of M2M communications player Aeris (Santa Clara, CA, USA). “It’s the main thing that still needs to be addressed.”

Hosain gave the example of a connected device that could be used to inject insulin into the body and operated by means of a smartphone, saying that hackers had proven they were able to gain control of this device.

Rules and regulations on privacy could also threaten the take-up of mobile health technology, although its potential to address major health problems is significant if these concerns can be overcome.

“You could predict whether a stroke or heart attack is imminent using data generated by machines and also look at data across different communities to make inferences,” said Paul Smelser, the vice president of business development for Synapse Wireless, a monitoring specialist (Huntsville, AL, USA).

Another challenge is finding the right communications technology to support wearables usage, with AT&T (Dallas, TX, USA) planning to shut down its 2G networks across the US by 2017.

“AT&T did a good job of freaking everybody out with this,” said Peter West, the director of business development with Kore Telematics (Alpharetta, GA, USA), a mobile virtual network operator addressing M2M markets. “If you could develop a module that would slide in and out of a device that would be great.”

Many M2M players have been turning to LTE technology as a long-term solution to the connectivity problem.

However, as West notes, operators use different frequencies in different parts of the world, which makes LTE less than ideal.

One option for addressing the power issues associated with cellular connectivity in wearables is the so-called body area network, whereby devices would use short-range technologies to communicate with a gateway that forms the cellular platform.

“I don’t see the wearable itself becoming cellular, necessarily, because of the obvious power constraints,” said Hosain.
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