This article analyzes wireless communication protocols that could be used in healthcare environments (e.g., hospitals and small clinics) to transfer real-time medical information obtained from noninvasive sensors. For this purpose the features of the three currently most widely used protocols-namely, Bluetooth Ò (IEEE 802.15.1), ZigBee (IEEE 802.15.4), and Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11)-are evaluated and compared. The important features under consideration include data bandwidth, frequency band, maximum transmission distance, encryption and authentication methods, power consumption, and current applications. In addition, an overview of network requirements with respect to medical sensor features, patient safety and patient data privacy, quality of service, and interoperability between other sensors is briefly presented. Sensor power consumption is also discussed because it is considered one of the main obstacles for wider adoption of wireless networks in medical applications. The outcome of this assessment will be a useful tool in the hands of biomedical engineering researchers. It will provide parameters to select the most effective combination of protocols to implement a specific wireless network of noninvasive medical sensors to monitor patients remotely in the hospital or at home.
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