Archive for the ‘Healthcare’ Category

Healthcare – Staff communications base

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Definition

The administrative and communication centre of a clinical unit.

Healthcare – Medical gas pipeline system (MGPS)

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Definition

The fixed medical gases pipework, the associated supply plant or pumping equipment, and the warning and alarm systems. This definition includes medical compressed air, medical vacuum installations and anaesthetic gas scavenging systems (AGSS).

Healthcare – Electronic patient record (EPR) architecture

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

There have been two major approaches to the development of networked electronic patient record (EPR) architecture. One uses object-oriented methodologies for constructing the model. The second approach uses document-oriented methodologies. It is practically beneficial to take the advantages of both approaches and to add solution technologies for network security such as PKI. In recognition of the similarity with electronic commerce, a certificate authority as a trusted third party will be organised for establishing networked EPR system.

Medical images are currently created digitally and stored in the radiology department’s picture archiving and communication system. Reports are usually stored in the electronic patient record of other information systems, such as the radiology information system (RIS) and the hospital information system (HIS). But high-quality services can only be provided if electronic patient record data is integrated with digital images in picture archiving and communication systems. Clinicians should be able to access both systems’ data in an integrated and consistent way as part of their regular working environment, whether HIS or RIS. Also, this system should allow for teleconferencing with other users, eg, for consultation with a specialist in the radiology department. Technology is going over to a web-based solution that integrates the digital images of picture archiving and communication systems with electronic patient record/HIS/RIS data and has built-in teleconferencing functionality. This integration has been successfully tested using three different commercial RIS and HIS products.

Best practice guidance for healthcare engineering

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Building services engineering can give ‘guidance’ incorporating comprehensive advice on the design, installation and operation of specialised building and engineering technology used in the delivery of health care.With focus on health care-specific elements of standards, policies and up-to-date established best practice. Best practice guidance is applicable to new and existing sites, and is for use at various stages during the whole building lifecycle:

Healthcare providers have a duty of care to ensure that appropriate engineering governance arrangements are in place and are managed effectively. This guidance provides best practice engineering standards and policy to enable management of this duty of care.

It is not the intention to unnecessarily repeat international or European standards, industry standards or UK Government legislation. Where appropriate, these will be referenced elswhere in this blog over time.

Healthcare-specific technical engineering guidance is a vital tool in the safe and efficient operation of healthcare facilities. Special guidance is given the main source of specific healthcare-related disciplines for estates and facilities professionals.

It:

  • encapsulates the latest standards and best practice in healthcare engineering;
  • provides a structured reference for healthcare engineering.

Healthcare – Staff Attack alarms

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

In certain clinical areas such as Accident and Emergency departments and mental health wards, staff can become subject to attack; therefore, it may be appropriate to install a personal-attack alarm system.

A personal-attack alarm system should be designed to alert security and other personnel to render immediate assistance to staff located within an area who have become subjected to an attack.

Note

Consideration should be given to connecting the attack alarm to the closed-circuit television (CCTV) system.

The personal-attack alarm system should be designed to be as reliable and resilient as possible and, where necessary, should contain an integral power supply to sustain operation during periods of loss of normal electricity services. Where radio signals are used, these should be strictly managed and controlled to ensure that the limiting parameters such as frequency, signal strength and range as laid down by the manufacturer and statutory authorising bodies are not exceeded. Where infrared-only signals are used, account should be taken of the “line of sight” and blocking of signals through obstacles, clothing, body etc.

Operation
Attack alarm systems generally consist of a portable transmitting device worn by staff plus a receiver at which the transmitter signal is received and transferred to a central indicator unit situated at a permanently staffed position. When attacked, the member of staff will activate the transmitting device which – via the receiver – will register the location of the attack at the permanently staffed position. Staff at this position will immediately alert security staff/the staff response team to go to the location of the attack.

Once an attack call has been initiated, a visual and audible sounder should operate in the immediate area or remotely (subject to local policy) in order to alert other staff to give assistance to the member of staff being attacked, and to help deter the attacker. The level of sound/visual alarm should be sufficient to be heard but not so loud as to prevent verbal conversation/instructions between staff. The system should be reset remotely and not via the transmitting device.

The period between activation of the transmitting device and alerting of security staff/the staff response team should be as short as possible.

Activation of the signal-transmitting device by staff being attacked should cause the immediate provision of visual, audible and staff location details to be displayed at the permanently staffed position. The system should be capable of recording the staff reference, time and location of the attack and should handle up to three multiple calls simultaneously.

Visual and audible signals associated with an attack alarm should be distinguishable from all other call systems and be of sufficient luminance and loudness to ensure high priority attention from staff at the signal-receiving positions).

A multiple mode system should be used to report the attack location and to raise a general alarm. A failure of one of these signals should not prevent a response to the alarm.

Transmitter
This should comprise a suitable transmitting device worn by staff, or located at specified strategic points, that will activate the attack alarm system when triggered.

Body-worn alarm-raising transmitter units should be supplemented by wall-mounted push-buttons where additional protection is required.

Transmitting devices should be reliable and capable of being worn by staff such that they can be activated quickly whilst under attack. The transmitting device should be of robust construction and produce a suitable visual/audible warning signal to staff whenever its power source is reaching a point at which it cannot be relied upon to operate satisfactorily. Once activated, the warning signal should allow the device to satisfactorily operate for at least 12 hours before the power source is replenished.

Receiver
The system should be able to identify, as accurately as possible, the location at which the attack alarm was triggered, and not be confused with calls emanating from other areas. This should be achieved by suitably-placed receiver units, or other communication devices, alarmed back to the central indicator unit that is situated at a permanently staffed position.

Pocket pagers

Where required, pocket pagers should be provided to sound and display alarm calls in circumstances where staff need to respond to a call but are beyond earshot of the various alarm call tones generated within a specific clinical area.

The staff base unit within the clinical area should be linked to a transmitter to initiate the relevant call signal to be received by the pocket pager(s). The time between activation of a call and display on the pocket pagers should be minimal.

The information displayed by the pocket pager should be sufficient for the recipient to clearly identify the type and origin of the call and quickly progress directly to the call location.

Where more than one clinical area operates a pocket pager system, the pocket pager system should be designed to ensure that it operates reliably, with calls emanating from a clinical area being retained exclusive to that area and not wrongly received by another clinical area.

Priority of calls
Pager signals should differentiate between other types of call. The types of call in order of high to lower priority are: cardiac alarm, attack alarm, staff emergency call, bathroom/WC call, and patient call.

Staff-to-staff (emergency)

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Emergency switch

It is necessary to give nursing staff the ability to call for assistance should the need arise while attending a patient. A switch for this purpose should be incorporated on the bedhead services and in any other area where assistance may be required. Areas that have no other form of communication may require this facility (for example treatment rooms).

Visual signals

Operation of the staff emergency switch at any bed or other location, where fitted, should cause the sequence of lamps as described in the “Patient-to-nurse” section to illuminate in a flashing mode (whether a normal call is in force or not) until the emergency switch is returned to normal.

Where a group lamp is positioned to indicate calls from more than one source, the raising of an emergency call from one section should not be masked by a steady illumination from another section that has a normal call in operation.

Operation of the emergency switch should cause the system to operate in one of the following ways:

  • it should override any patient calls and bathroom/WC calls on the system when the emergency call is made, storing these until the emergency call is cancelled, when they are reinstated automatically;
  • it should not affect any patient or emergency calls from any other point that are in force or need to be made during the emergency.

Audible signals

Use of an emergency switch should cause all the tone sounders of the system to operate in phase with the flashing lamps.

If the quiet (or mute) setting of the control switch at the staff communications base has been selected, this will be overridden.

Healthcare – Patient's calling devices

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Patient’s calling devices

Patient-to-nurse calling devices should have a tactile feel. The push-button or pull-ring should be easily recognised by its colour (normally amber) and by a nurse symbol indelibly engraved/printed on or alongside the device. Examples of typical nurse symbols are shown in the diagram below.

Typical layout of patient handset with example of symbolsTypical layout of patient handset with example of symbols

The device should be easy to operate by the patient irrespective of whether he/she is ambulant, disabled or confined to bed.

Patient-to-nurse calling devices are normally of the push-button type; however, different designs and configurations should be available to suit individual patient condition requirements. These should be capable of utilising a common basesocket connector unit to allow flexibility in use at each call point.

For ease of location at night, the hand unit should be permanently back-lit, but not so brightly that it could be confused with the reassurance lamp.

A reassurance lamp in the form of a light-emitting diode (LED) should be positioned adjacent to, or should be integrated within, the call device.

The voltage potential difference between any two points, including earth, likely to be experienced by patients or persons associated with the call unit or its cable should not exceed that which applies to medical equipment described in the MEIGaN regulations either under normal or fault conditions. The nurse-call circuit should be automatically monitored so that a break in the cable or withdrawal of the plug will initiate a call.

Further information:

Wall- or trunking-mounted push-button

The push-button should be large enough and easily recognisable and suitable for all areas of a healthcare facility frequented by ambulant patients or where it may be intended to be used. Associated with the push-button – either integrally or alongside – a reassurance lamp should be fitted.

 

 

Hand-held nurse-call-only unit

A hand-held unit used solely for patient–nurse call purposes should consist of a push-button attached to a fixed unit by means of a suitable cable plug/ socket connector. The push-button should be large and easily recognisable, with a reassurance lamp in the form of an LED fitted either integrally or alongside.

The push-button should be permanently illuminated to a level sufficient to allow easy location in the dark, but should not be so bright as to be confused with the nurse-call reassurance lamp.

The unit should be ergonomically designed, with a flexible lightweight cable of sufficient length to enable patients to activate a call from the bed or whilst sitting in a bedside chair or nursing area etc. The means of attachment at both ends of the cable should be in the form of an effective strain-relief device in order to minimise risk of cable failure. The plug attachment to the base unit should be of a pattern that will disengage from the wall socket when strain is applied to the cable from any angle without damage to plug, socket or cable. Where the same plug and socket is used for a patient handset as an alternative to a call-only unit, the circuitry of the call-only unit should be compatible with that of the handset so that the socket can be used for either.

The control of infection should also be considered in the design and manufacture of the patient handset unit. It should be designed with an appropriate IP rating (see BS EN 60529) so that the unit can withstand submersion in various liquids.

It should also be designed to allow patients with a range of disabilities not only to operate the unit but also to understand the functions of the unit.

Some means of attaching the call-only unit securely to the bedclothes or the patient’s clothes should be available, but it should be so designed that any undue force will allow the clip to disengage without tearing the materials.

A parking clip or bracket should be provided to allow the unit to be stored on the wall or locker when not in use.

 

Pull-cord unit

In showers, bathrooms and toilets, the patientcalling device is normally a ceiling-mounted pullcord unit with pull rings as described in Part M of the Building Regulations – namely, coloured red, located as close to the wall as possible, and having two red 50 mm diameter bangles (or similar) set at different heights. It is important that the pull-cord is easily recognised as the calling device and cannot be confused with a light switch. The pull-cord unit should provide reassurance that the system has operated. The switch should have a momentary action to activate a call. Use of pull-cords within mental illness units needs careful consideration to avoid potential ligature points, and in any case, the cord should have a low breaking strain.

 

Other call units

Pneumatically-operated call units can be used for patients who are unable to use their hands. The unit comprises an air bulb and connecting tube, terminating in an air-velocity-operated switch that is integral with the wall unit.

Other forms of call unit that facilitate operation by disabled patients should be considered if these provide enhanced and more efficient use. The design and manufacture of such units should be sufficiently robust to provide a safe and reliable service, and their method of operation should be compatible with the remainder of the patient call system.

MEIGaN – Medical Electrical Installation Guidance

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

MEIGaN – Medical Electrical Installation Guidance is intended to be used by healthcare organisations and medical devices suppliers responsible for permanent electrical installation of medical devices and associated equipment in diagnostic imaging (including dental X-ray units) and radiotherapy rooms/suites. Its requirements are intended for application by staff with electrical knowledge.

Where complied with a complete set of paper commissioning records, sufficient to show compliance with the EIGaN guidance shall be made available to the owner at handover.

This document may also be of use to persons installing permanently installed medical evices in other clinical areas, but has not yet been agreed by interested parties oncerned with installations other than for imaging and radiotherapy.

Covering the electrical wiring and installation up to the terminals of ermanently installed medical devices and to the supply outlets for other medical sevices, and is intended to improve the reliability and resilience of the power supplies sed in diagnostic imaging and radiotherapy rooms/suites as well as their electrical safety.

Healthcare organisations should include as a condition of contract that ‘the electrical installation shall meet the requirements of BS 7671 IEE Wiring Regulations, MEIGaN, HTM 2007 and BS EN 60601-1-1:2001.’

The guidance document supplements the following, all relevant requirements of which apply:

• BS 7671:2001 Requirements for electrical installations. IEE Wiring Regulations. Sixteenth edition, including amendment No. 1 2002 and No. 2 2004
• NHS Estates HTM 06-01 Electrical services, supply and distribution
• BS EN60601-1-1:2006 Medical electrical equipment. General requirements for safety. Collateral standard. Safety requirements for medical electrical systems.
Annex 1 of the document is based on IEC 60364-7-710 [4] and IEE Guidance Note 7 and will be incorporated in a subsequent revision of HTM 06-01.

The document document has been produced by the MHRA and representatives from the Department of Health’s Estates and Facilities Division, the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland administrations, NHS electrical experts, medical device suppliers and pre-installation companies.

It is intended for new buildings, refurbished rooms and transportable diagnostic or treatment rooms and is not retrospective.

References
1 BS 7671:2001 Requirements for electrical installations. IEE Wiring Regulations.

2 Department of Health: Estates and Facilities Division. HTM 06-01 Electrical ervices supply and distribution.

3 BS EN 60601-1:2006 Medical electrical equipment. General requirements for basic safety and essential performance. BSI, 2006.

4 IEC 60364-7-710:2002 Electrical installations of buildings – Part 7-710: requirements for special installations or locations – medical locations.
Note: the MHRA and DH Estates and Facilities Division recommend that MEIGaN is used.

5 The Institution of Engineering and Technology IEE Guidance Note 7: Special locations, 2nd Edition. IEE Publications, 2004.

6 Statutory Instrument 1999 No. 3232 The Ionising Radiation Regulations 1999. MSO 1999.

7 BS 6231:2006 Electric cables. Single core PVC insulated flexible cables of rated voltage 600/1000 V for switchgear and controlgear wiring. BSI, 2006.

8 Canadian Standards Association. C22.2.127-99 Equipment and lead wires. CSA, 1999.

9 Underwriters Laboratories Inc. UL 758 Appliance wiring material, 2nd edition.

10 BS EN 60309-2:1999, IEC 60309-2:1999 Plugs, socket-outlets and couplers for industrial purposes. Dimensional interchangeability requirements for pin and contact-tube accessories. BSI, 1999.

11 Medical Devices Directives. Council of the European Communities. Council Directive 93/42/EEC of 14 June 1993 concerning medical devices. OJ L169: 1-43. 1993.
http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/medical_devices/legislation_en.htm

12 BS EN 60601-1-4:1997, BS 5724-1.4:1997, IEC 60601-1-4:1996 Medical electrical equipment. General requirements for safety. Collateral standard. General requirements for programmable electrical medical systems. BSI, 1997.

13 IEC 61557-8 Electrical safety in low voltage distribution systems up to 1000 V a.c. and 1 500 V d.c. – Equipment for testing, measuring or monitoring of protective measures – Part 8: Insulation monitoring devices for IT systems.

Remote Patient Monitoring

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Everyone likes their freedom. Remote patient monitoring helps patients keep more independence while still getting the care they need. Sensors and other connected devices can monitor vital signs and daily activity and transmit the information to caregivers, allowing patients more freedom to stay in their own homes. The systems can also provide benefits when used in care centers, letting patients move about instead of being tethered to bulky monitoring machines.

It seems that more companies enter this market every day, announcing systems for remote patient monitoring and claiming to revolutionize the market. One thing is certain: These systems are gaining in popularity and large companies are moving further into the market to provide them.

A recent announcement from GE, www.ge.com, Fairfield, Conn., shed some more light on the industry giant’s plans in the healthcare field. Through its GE Healthcare Unit, GE acquired Living Independently Group (LIG), www.quietcaresystems.com, New York, N.Y., a company focused on remote patient monitoring solutions.

LIG produces a system called QuiteCare, which uses sensors installed in a patient’s home to constantly monitor daily activity and transmit the details to a central location. If abnormalities in the patient’s daily routine are detected, automatic alerts can go out to caregivers.

GE says LIG’s offerings fit in well with GE’s vision for providing better healthcare at lower costs. In the past year, GE has made other investments in its Home Health business, such as an April alliance with Intel Corp., www.intel.com, Santa Clara, Calif., to invest $250 million in developing new technologies to assist with independent living for seniors and people with chronic health conditions.

As mammoth corporations like GE pour more resources into producing these types of monitoring technologies, it is likely the systems’ popularity will only increase. With people living longer and healthcare costs increasing, the need for systems that keep patients healthy with fewer restrictions on daily life shows no signs of letting up.

50 billion machines worldwide that can be connected together right now!

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

From the home, to the car, to your health, consumer applications of machine-to-machine technology are growing, and they’re slowly, but surely, changing the way we live.

There are more than 50 billion machines worldwide that can be connected using M2M (machine-to-machine) communications. From robots in manufacturing plants to trucks transporting fresh produce to refrigerators in consumer kitchens, billions of machines have data that’s just waiting to be tapped.

With such large market potential, the number of ways people and companies are using M2M today and the number of ways they will likely use M2M in the future is vast. Yet, in the current marketplace, much of the dialogue on how M2M can be applied focuses on commercial applications: how fleet managers use telematics solutions for fuel efficiency, how big-box retailers use RFID (radio frequency identification) to manage inventory levels, and how manufacturers can create new revenue streams with smart services, among others.

But of the billions of machines in the world today, some undoubtedly belong to the consumer, not the enterprise, leaving many asking: Where does the everyday Joe Smith of the world fit into the (M2M) system integration equation?

The answer to that question is tied to how M2M is impacting everyday life: It is in our home alarms it’s in our cars, and it’s even being used to monitor our vital signs.

Machine-to-machine technology is at the forefront of a “silent revolution,” a subtle, but influential transformation in which people, devices, and systems are becoming more connected.

And nowhere is this revolution happening more “silently” than among everyday consumers. It’s not so much that the technology isn’t available (because it is), or that it doesn’t work (because it does). The reason this revolution is happening “silently” is most people don’t even know it’s happening and sometimes don’t even know it’s there.

Unlike many of today’s commercial markets, the conversations with consumers about M2M products and services rarely broach the technological ins and outs of the solution. In fact, it’s probably unusual if consumers even know they are using M2M. Simply put, consumers don’t want to know how the technology works they simply want to know what it can do and that the technology will deliver on its promise.

And as such, system integration has unassumingly manipulated its way into consumers’ homes, cars, and even medical devices, taking advantage of the progress made in analogous areas in the commercial market.

“Consumer applications are a maturation of other solutions that have been put in place previously for the enterprise space. (The solutions) have proven that the technology does work,” says Dean Fledderjohn, general manager, Kyocera Wireless Corp., www.kyocera-wireless.com/m2m-business, San Diego, Calif.

IN THE HOME
When it comes to consumer applications of machine-to-machine technology, one of the areas technology providers are successfully penetrating is the home. M2M is making its mark in home-centric applications such as automated home technology systems and consumer energy-management solutions, but according to Peter Fowler, president, Cinterion Wireless Modules North America, www.cinterion.com, Issaquah, Wash., alarms have become the gateway into the North American home for M2M.

He believes this technology brings an ease-of-use factor to home security. With cellular M2M becoming more widely adopted for many of today’s new residential security alarms, installations are much easier to do.

“Rather than having to go in the old way and cut a hole in the wall and fish out a telephone line that would make an emergency call, now (installers) can simply activate a SIM (subscriber identity module) and have the customer live within a few hours of them agreeing that they want their home monitored,” explains Fowler.

An added bonus of using cellular is extra reliability. Since the alarm is not connected to a wired phone line, burglars cannot disable the alarm by simply cutting the telephone connection.

In addition, M2M has done more than improve on existing security technologies it has also helped bring security alarms to a new level, giving consumers unprecedented control of their security settings.

“What consumers want is the ability to be notified, to be proactively engaged, and to change the setting on their security systems,” explains Brent Barrs, vice president North American sales, Enfora Inc., www.enfora.com, Richardson, Texas. “They desire to (have the ability) to log in and check the status of the various sensors associated with the system.”

According to Barrs, the days are gone when consumers settle for notifications from a call center. “They don’t want to wait to receive that phone call from the call center alarming them that (an alarm went off) at the house. They like the ability to also receive realtime SMS (short-message service) notifications and email notifications, and consumers are very savvy (since) they have the portable devices that allow them to be comfortable with checking and changing these systems.”

One company providing this level of control to consumers is Alarm.com, www.alarm.com, Tysons Center, Va. Using communication modules from Enfora and sensors and security panels from GE Security Inc., www.gesecurity.com, Bradenton, Fla., Alarm.com offers a wide array of remote monitoring and control capabilities that extend its consumer security offerings into what could more accurately be described as home awareness systems in which security is just one facet of the solution.

“(In the past), most people had residential security systems that were useful only when the systems were turned on, in an armed state,” explains Mary Knebel, vice president of marketing, Alarm.com. Because most people don’t arm their security systems on a daily basis, Knebel adds, the system only delivers value once or twice a month when the homeowner arms the system.

Alarm.com’s solutions combine traditional security alarm capabilities with remote monitoring and control capabilities. Sensors installed throughout a home allow a number of different events, including the opening and closing of doors and windows and whether or not children arrive home from school on time, to be monitored. Homeowners can also use the system to remotely control their homes through a Web interface, performing tasks such as adjusting the temperature of their HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning) systems.

“Alarm.com enables the consumer to know what is (occurring) on the property even if the security alarm is in a disarmed state, giving value on a daily basis versus just once or twice a month,” explains Knebel.

Interest in these types of systems is gaining momentum. According to Knebel, when the company entered the market at the end of 2003, Alarm.com worked with only a handful of dealers. Now, she says Alarm.com has a network of more than 900 dealers.

Alarm.com’s solutions are an extension of what many classify as automated home technology systems, an area previously relegated to only the very wealthy.

“Compared to five years ago, (automated home technology) has grown quite dramatically,” says Bob Gohn, vice president of marketing, Ember Corp., www.ember.com, Boston, Mass. “The home automation systems that were traditionally reserved for the rich and famous … have really come down in price and have gotten more popular,” he adds.

Gohn points out this trend doesn’t mean that each and every home will have a home automation system, but he does see home automation moving downstream from the top 0.1% of homes to a wider base.

Analysts echo Gohn’s observations. According to a new report from ABI Research, www.abiresearch.com, Oyster Bay, N.Y., shipments of automated home technology systems are expected to increase to four million by 2013, up from the 237,000 shipped in 2007.

POWER MANAGEMENT
While security systems are the gateway to North American homes, that’s not the case in Europe and other parts of the world. “(Home security) alarms is a growing business in Europe, but it’s more focused on businesses,” says Fowler. “Alarms that are being developed by U.S. companies like Honeywell (are) being sold in Dubai and Europe, but the focus in those markets tends to be on commercial buildings more so than homes.”

So, how is M2M entering homes abroad? Through intelligent metering, Fowler says.

With government regulation pushing widespread adoption of AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) in Europe, and other parts of the world such as Canada, intelligent meters are becoming more commonplace, and as a result, M2M has entered the home in much larger numbers throughout regions with more pervasive intelligent metering.

In North America, where intelligent metering is gaining traction, but has yet to be government mandated on a large scale, only 16% of all M2M connections are home centric, according to ABI Research. In comparison, that figure rises to 43% for Europe, and for regions like Scandinavia and Italy, where regulatory-inspired smart-metering projects began some years ago, the percentage of home-based M2M connections stands at more than 65%.

Traditionally, smart metering solutions were installed with the intention of helping utilities improve their operations, but with the advent of AMI, or the two-way communication between the home and the utility, smart metering is now part of energy-management consumer applications. And the proliferation of AMI infrastructure couldn’t come at a better time.

“All of our ears are greatly attuned to the idea of managing energy or controlling energy and minimizing costs,” says Gohn.

With an AMI infrastructure in place, consumers can use in-home displays to monitor their realtime energy use, receive information on pricing during peak events, and adjust energy consumption levels in response.

“AMI … now allows the consumer to have the information and to have the ability to opt in to various control mechanisms so that they can modulate their use,” explains Gohn. He adds one of the opt-in programs that consumers can agree to participate is one in which energy loads are controlled by the utility. For example, a homeowner gives the utility permission to raise the setting on the home’s HVAC system by several degrees during a peak event, thereby reducing the energy consumption for that home.

Gohn points out, “That’s really where the most exciting penetration for this technology will be in the homes because it won’t be just (in) the top 1% or 2% of homes it’s going to be rolled out for entire regions.”

IN THE CAR
Like the home, the consumer vehicle has garnered a lot of attention from the M2M community. Some of the most notable consumer-focused automotive M2M applications involve auto insurance, vehicle-tracking as part of loan terms for borrowers with bad credit and after-market service.

What these three applications have in common is their impact on the consumer wallet. “With (consumers) in particular, it’s all about the wallet. The wallet is on everyone’s mind right now,” explains Kyocera’s Fledderjohn.

With PAYD (pay-as-you-drive) insurance, consumers save money on their auto insurance if they drive less. For consumers with bad credit, agreeing to have a vehicle tracking device may be the only way to obtain a car loan with a reasonable interest rate. And when it comes to fuel prices, anything that helps ensure the fuel efficiency of a car—such as telematics offerings that catch potential mileage-impacting mechanical problems—is appealing to the consumer.

Using M2M to improve vehicle performance has been prevalent in commercial markets for quite some time, but as drivers continue to feel the pinch at the pump, these applications certainly captured consumer attention.

“It started out with fleets, but the individual consumers are obviously worried about the same things because they’re (also experiencing) the higher costs of fuel,” says Shawn Aleman, vice president business development, Xirgo Technologies LLC, www.xirgotech.com, Camarillo, Calif.

In the North American vehicle telematics market, OnStar has led the pack, dominating consumer marketshare for telematics offerings in the U.S. According to OnStar, it had 2.5 million subscribers at the end of 2003, and the company expects to have more than 5.8 million subscribers by the end of this year. If OnStar meets the projection, it will have experienced a 130% increase in its subscriber base during a five-year period.

“What was really successful in the U.S. was the business model,” says Ralf Hug, vice president product management and marketing, Airbiquity, www.airbiquity.com, Seattle, Wash., regarding OnStar’s success in the U.S. market. He points out carmakers in this market decided to put this equipment in as many vehicles as possible, while in comparison Europe chose to only offer it as an option.

While the telematics market continues to gain significant marketshare, there are still some cost factors that have to be sorted out in order to meet consumers’ expectations. Aleman explains, “The end customer is not concerned much about the technology rather than overall cost of ownership. … The hardware costs have come down quite a bit during the last couple years. But I don’t think the network costs (of communicating vehicle data) have come down as much. The recurring cost is what I believe is preventing a lot of consumers from adopting the technology.”

FOR YOUR HEALTH
Another area in which M2M has made significant inroads into the consumer world is healthcare. According to a report released earlier this year from ON World, www.onworld.com, San Diego, Calif., the use of wireless sensor networks—one of the key enabling technologies for M2M solutions—is growing within the healthcare industry, and the technology could save the healthcare industry $25 billion in 2012 by reducing hospitalizations and extending independent living for seniors.

Analysts say two of the most promising WSN (wireless sensor networking) healthcare solutions are AAL (ambient assisted living) and BSNs (body sensor networks), both of which are used directly by consumers.

AAL solutions give the elderly the ability to live independently longer. Using a network of sensors placed throughout the person’s home, caregivers and family members can remotely monitor the activity (and inactivity) of the person throughout the day to ensure his or her safety and well-being.

CMI (Community Management Initiative Inc.), www.simplyhome-cmi.com, Green Bay, Wis., is one company that provides AAL solutions. Its SimplyHome offering, which is based on technology from Alarm.com, uses a network of sensors, including motion detectors, door/window contacts, and a panic pendant, to keep caregivers informed on what’s happening in an elderly person’s home.

The system is directly shipped to the consumer, and the company says customers can set up the system in 20 minutes. Wireless sensors are placed throughout the home, and they communicate to a central base station that’s either placed on a counter or mounted to the wall. The base station then sends the information wirelessly to a central processing center.

The caregiver manages the “rules” for the system, such as the times of the day the front door should not be opened, through the Web. If the event occurs, an email or text message is sent to a designated contact person.

BSNs, on the other hand, are based on wearable or implantable devices that can sense vital signs such as heart rate, blood oxygen levels, or blood glucose levels. In the past, when a patient suffered from a heart attack or other abnormal occurrence, healthcare providers had to depend on symptoms conveyed by the patient and/or results from tests conducted after the fact in order to prescribe the right treatment.

BSNs give nurses and doctors the ability to access near-realtime data on vital signs, such as abnormal fluctuations in heart rate or blood glucose levels, as the event is happening or immediately following the event. In turn, consumers can better manage their own health and possibly reduce hospitalizations and doctor visits.

Moreover, remote healthcare monitoring solutions can also mean dollar savings for the consumer. Enfora’s Barrs calls attention to the example of glucose monitoring.

Unlike in the past when patients took glucose readings, but didn’t necessarily pass that data on to their doctor or other healthcare organization, with M2M-enabled devices, “those measurements are transmitted to a datacenter in realtime,” explains Barrs. He adds, “The benefits are Medicare, Medicaid, and other organizations steeply discount diabetic drugs and other types of precautionary pharmaceuticals from the standpoint that they are hoping they’re eliminating a hospital visit by taking precautionary care with the patients.”

Without these M2M-enabled medical devices, healthcare organizations simply had no way to confirm the patient was following the prescribed treatment plan.

“By having this availability to pass this data and have statistical information to them in realtime, they have the ability to continue discounting (prescriptions for) those folks that are managing their conditions by taking the discounted drugs and by taking those readings in a timely manner,” explains Barrs.

While BSNs and other remote monitoring technologies are far from being pervasive tools in today’s healthcare industry, interest is definitely growing.

According to Medtronic Inc., www.medtronic.com, Minneapolis, Minn., a provider of remote cardiac monitoring solutions, the number of consumers using its technology has grown significantly during the past several years. The company says today nearly 290,000 patients and 2,600 clinics use its remote monitoring technology, compared to the 50,000 patients and 550 clinics that were using the technology three years ago.

Moreover, Enfora is observing significant growth in M2M applications for the healthcare industry. According to Barrs, Enfora believes the volume of rollouts it will ship for healthcare applications in 2009 will likely match the number of those it will ship for security applications, which is currently Enfora’s top consumer M2M market.

INNOVATION TO COME
So, what can everyday Joe Smith expect from the M2M industry in the coming years? While the answer is not cut and dry, the possibilities are certainly endless.

Greg Jones, vice president marketing and business development, Sensorlogic, www.sensorlogic.com, Addison, Texas, says the consumer market is ready for M2M. Now, it’s just a matter of educating the SMBs (small-to-midsize businesses) and entrepreneurs that serve the consumer market that M2M technology is available at a reasonable price point.

“Our biggest issue right now is that people don’t know it’s possible (to get these consumer applications to market),” he explains. “We have, as an industry, a marketing challenge to get the word out that this stuff is doable. A lot of people are doing it today. It can be done cost effectively. And you can actually launch products fairly quickly.”

Jones adds, “As consumer apps start to really roll into the market, that’s also going to help raise market awareness about what might be possible. So, it could potentially (create) a snowball effect.”

Doing business in healthcare: Lifetime Homes Standards – what is required?

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

The Government has laid out its mandatory Lifetime Homes Standards for all public sector housing by 2011.

The Government intends that private developers will do this as well so that by 2013 all new homes will be built to the same standard.

Research done by the Housing and Older People Development Group outlines the needs of older people:

• Well designed with growing older in mind and should meet the needs of all ages.

• Space is important, with extra room for visitors or a carer.

• Low maintenance and safe housing design with downstairs bathroom, and affordable to heat.

• Access to green private space and accessibility to transport is important.

• A reliable repairs service.

• Older people want to be listened to and be involved in all stages of planning and policy.

Different homes

• Nursing homes are for people who can require 24 hour care.

• Extra care homes are for people who live independently and own or rent their homes but they have on-site support. Also known as sheltered housing from the 1960s. Housing associations
are the main clients for this market and other private operators are on the increase.

• A care village is a collection of extra care homes. It can be a gated community, which has full care facilities for people planning for old age.

• Hospices are for those whose conditions may not be curable.

• Day centres may be part of hospitals and serve a variety of purposes.

• Elderly persons’ homes may be those which are specially adapted but they don’t have to be, and may be designated due to location or other reasons.