Thought Leadership

Why medical systems need WiFi

By Colin Walls

We have a great many customers who are in the business of making medical equipment and instrumentation. Given the enormous increase in the use of electronics in hospitals and medical facilities, this is not too surprising. Our success in this area has come about naturally – the products just fit the needs of these developers. We have not really promoted ourselves in this space or adapted anything to address their requirements. This has led me to start thinking about what we could do to help make medical instrumentation even better.

This brings me to WiFi – wireless networking. There are certain modern technologies that give me pleasure. They have a common factor: they just work. And WiFi does just that (most of the time). I take my laptop anywhere in my house, or visit friends or customers, and I have connectivity when I need it. If someone visits me, there is no messing with Ethernet or telephone cables, just an exchange of magic codes. So, what’s this got to do with medical applications?

Looking under my desk, what I see is a mass of cables. They have been there, undisturbed, for a while and are, hence, a little dusty. This leads me to make the following links: cables = dust; dust = dirt; dirt = germs; germs = disease. In my house I am unlikely to get much worse than a dust mite allergy (though I had a neighbor who picked up something at home that hospitalized him for a week). And it is in hospitals that great care with hygiene is of paramount importance. I have spent a lot of time in hospitals (fortunately, mostly as a visitor) and I have seen quite a few cables around the place. What a difference WiFi might make. If all the instruments were connected together wirelessly, there would be one less opportunity for germs to lurk. 802.11 stacks are available as an option with most embedded operating systems – Nucleus OS included, of course. A commercial stack should be straightforward to deploy, comply with standards and incorporate the latest security facilities to ensure data privacy.

This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at