In the last years, much work has been done to create a complete solution in m-Health environments. The problem can be summarized as follows: any health professional (medical specialist, sport trainer, nutritionist, etc.) should be able to control a series of measurements related to a person’s health. The characteristics of these people vary from those patients with limited knowledge of the control processes and low mobility to sportsmen highly involved in the process and great mobility in the moment the measurements take place. This wide set of characteristics raises two basic challenges: the use of measurement equipment easily adaptable to the control system and the necessity of adding mobility support mechanisms to the design. This chapter focuses on studying these two challenges, illustrates them with several use cases and contributes to the mobility support problem with a new algorithm.
Telecommunications and advanced information technologies have increasingly been used for clinical activities and research to improve healthcare delivery. The design of these e-Health systems has boosted many evolutions in the last years towards integrated solutions and new application environments. Thus, Medical Devices (MDs) and Vital Sensors (VSs) at the Point of Care (PoC) end are now part of very diverse environments: home telemonitoring, mobile solutions (m-Health) for teleemergencies, or on-line follow up while patients carry out their daily living activities (Ruiz, Viruete, Hernández, Alesanco, Fernández, Valdovinos, Istepanian & García, 2006). These devices and sensors acquire huge amounts of very valuable information, without the need for manually writing down each measurement, contributing to the generation of the Electronic Healthcare Record (EHR). Moreover, as different manufacturers use their own software and communication protocols (building proprietary solutions that can only work alone or inside a single-vendor system), an important interoperability problem emerges, leading to the need of communication standards (Galarraga, Serrano, Martinez & Toledo, 2005), and their further adaptation to new wireless (Bluetooth, Zigbee, or WiFi) and wired (USB or Ethernet) communication technologies. Some of these standards are EN13606, the European standard for EHR communication (EN13606, 2007); and ISO/IEEE11073 PoC-MDC, the European CEN/TC251 family of standards for PoC-MD Communications also known as X73 (IEEE11073, 2007). Thus, this need for developing open sensor networks in healthcare environments has fostered the development of standard-based specific solutions (Martínez, Fernández, Galarrage, Serrano, Toledo & García, 2007) that allow transparent integration and interoperability inside e-Health systems with monitoring medical devices. Furthermore, the use of standards provides plug-and-play capabilities and auto-configuration features with the lowest level of user intervention, also taking into account users with no technical knowledge (the end user, without the support of a technician, should also be able to substitute or add a device in case of failure or due to a change in the follow-up design).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Vertical Handoff: Vertical handoff (or vertical handover) generalizes the term “handover” to the transference of calls between different network technologies. Vertical handover denotes the transference of a call between two different network technologies with the purpose of obtaining a better service. Node mobility (e.g., cellular phones, laptops, sensors, etc.) can cause link quality to degrade. If a new network technology is available in the node’s coverage area and can provide a better quality, the node’s current communications are transferred to this technology, preferably without interruption. This process is called vertical handover.
Horizontal Handoff: A horizontal handoff (or horizontal handover) is a handoff between two network access points that use the same network technology.
m-Health: Mobile Health is an emerging area of telemedicine in which the recent developments in mobile networks and telemedicine applications converge. M-Health involves the exploitation of mobile telecommunication and multimedia technologies and their integration into new mobile healthcare delivery systems. M-Health systems take advantage of the new possibilities that wireless and mobile networks offer thanks to the wide coverage provided by cellular networks and the possibility of serving moving vehicles.
Handoff: Handoff (or handover) is the process used in cellular systems to transfer a call between base stations when link quality decreases due to the mobility of cellular phones to obtain a better service.
IP Mobility: IP mobility refers to the set of mechanisms that allow an IP mobile node to move freely between different IP networks (possibly with different underlying technologies) while maintaining IP connectivity in a transparent way to upper layers. One of the most desirable features of IP mobility mechanisms is the ability of maintaining connectivity without interrupting ongoing communications. Other desirable features include location tracking and quality of service maintenance.