LoRaWAN Supports Medical Professionals During COVID-19
By Derek Wallace, VP of Marketing, LoRa Alliance
COVID-19 is taking a tremendous toll on medical and other frontline professionals around the world as they treat infected patients while dealing with the physical and emotional stress of long days, lack of supplies, extreme worry about being infected (or, worse, infecting loved ones at home), as well as uncertainty about the present and future. They need help in their struggle to treat patients with COVID-19 and prevent the spread of the virus, and governments, institutions, private companies, and individuals around the world are responding to this call.
The LoRa Alliance—a nonprofit association promoting awareness and adoption of LoRaWAN to deliver massive Internet of Things (IoT) globally—has also stepped up to the plate to answer this call. We have been working with our member companies on the question: how can technology, specifically, LoRaWAN solutions, help our medical and other frontline professionals in their fight against COVID-19?
What Is LoRaWAN and How Can It Help?
LoRaWAN is a low-power, wide-area networking protocol designed to wirelessly connect battery-operated devices to the internet in campus, regional, national, or global networks, and targets key IoT requirements such as bidirectional communication, end-to-end security, mobility, and localization services. LoRaWAN offers long-range, 10-plus-year battery-operated sensors, operates independent of corporate IT and infrastructure, is cost-effective, and is easy to deploy, especially with its ability to build a private network where it’s needed in a matter of days or even hours.
This private network capability is perfect for hospitals and other health care facilities that either need their own network or are in places where other technologies, like cellular, simply cannot reach or are incapable of meeting the communication needs of IoT use cases.
The global pandemic is impacting virtually every nation on Earth. Any technology solution meant to fight COVID-19 absolutely must have the capability to be deployed quickly and inexpensively. It also needs to be usable by people and communities who have varying access to technology. This is especially important because not everyone has access to a cell phone. There are areas that don’t have cell coverage, and infrastructure for some medical facilities like field hospitals can greatly differ from a standard hospital. LoRaWAN technology has the flexibility and capability to address all these issues and is doing so today, globally.
COVID-19 Use Cases Supported by LoRaWAN Today
As the world scrambles to develop treatments and a vaccine, there are other ways to fight COVID-19. If we can prevent the spread of the virus, we can reduce the number of people infected and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. If we can provide real-time data and apply it when and where it’s needed, preventative and predictable cleaning in suspected COVID-19 areas can stop an outbreak before it happens. If we can accurately track, trace, and monitor people, while adhering to individual data privacy, we can assess the effectiveness of quarantine zones and understand the virus’ spread rate and locations, which can help formulate reopening policies.
The following solutions from LoRa Alliance member companies show how LoRaWAN is addressing these critical needs now.
Facility Management & Spread Prevention
- Everynet, Rebexia, Abeeway, and myDevices: Nurse Call Systems for Temporary Hospitals — With an influx of patients due to COVID-19, temporary hospitals are being set up around the world, but the infrastructure needed to support these hospitals doesn’t exist in most locations. LoRa Alliance members Everynet, Rebexia, Abeeway, and myDevices teamed up to provide a LoRaWAN network to enable a wireless nurse call station in a temporary hospital in Madrid. The LoRaWAN network and nurse call station solution was set up very quickly to enable patients to push a button to summon help.
- TEKTELIC: Respiratory Monitor — The TEKTELIC Respiratory Sensor monitors patients and vulnerable individuals for potential respiratory illness. It is designed to detect the most common symptoms of respiratory illness, including increased body temperature and breathing rate, persistent cough, and accelerated heart rate. This portable device uses an adjustable, washable strap for the patient’s comfort and privacy.
- Microshare: Infection Risk Reduction in Hospitals & Health Care — Microshare has developed a suite of solutions based on LoRaWAN technology to help hospitals deal with the challenge of treating patients while preventing the spread of infection. Its solutions have demonstrated the ability to reduce infection risk via predictive cleaning, bed occupancy patterns, air and water quality monitoring, and more. One of its rapid feedback solutions, dubbed AlertComm, allows staff to raise the alarm and request immediate deep cleaning and other steps at the precise moment when and where COVID-19 is suspected.
- Tracking & Monitoring of People, Supplies, and Equipment — See figure 2.
- Meshed: nCounter People Counter — The Meshed nCounter solution delivers 24/7 data on how many people are in a specific area at any given time. This data is being used by municipalities to understand which parts of their communities have been most hardly hit economically by the crisis so they can undertake active measures in recovery and stimulus. It monitors real-time changes in pedestrian flows, enabling rapid adjustment of existing policies, and provides additional benefits as well.
- myDevices: Asset Temperature Monitoring — myDevices’ SimplySense monitors the temperature of vaccines and blood in refrigerators as well as in transportation, thereby proving that temperatures have been properly maintained to ensure that vaccines, medicine, and blood don’t spoil and will work as intended, while also helping to relieve the staff from manually having to record temperature readings.
- Switzercloud: Medication Temperature & Humidity Monitoring — Switzercloud’s LoRaWAN temperature and humidity sensors measure and monitor conditions of medication storage cabinets to ensure that medication always meets stringent health and safety standards, eliminating manual recording and proving compliance to regulators.
- Cavagna Group & A2A Smart City — With the increased demand for medical equipment, Italian companies Cavagna Group and A2A Smart City have enhanced production of medical gas valves used for oxygen cylinder delivery systems. These valves contain digital pressure gauges and use LoRaWAN for data transmission. This solution allows hospital staff to remotely monitor and control the amount of oxygen remaining in a cylinder.
A more complete and ever-expanding list of solutions can be found at the How LoRaWAN Can Help Fight COVID-19 web page.
There are many ways medical professionals need help fighting COVID-19 beyond treating infected patients, like preventing the spread of infection and monitoring infected people and environments, as well as ensuring that equipment used to treat patients is functioning optimally. These approaches help reduce the number of infections, thereby reducing the strain on hospitals and medical facilities.
In turn, improvements in these areas can help reduce the physical and mental strain that our medical professionals and frontline workers are experiencing, in addition to adding protection from contracting the virus themselves.
This year so far has been a turbulent one to say the least, with COVID-19 having a tremendous impact on virtually all aspects of life. The LoRa Alliance and its member companies will continue to search for ways LoRaWAN technology can help medical professionals and frontline workers in their fight against the virus.
About the Author
Derek Wallace leads the marketing team at the LoRa Alliance and brings over 25 years of experience marketing technology, industrial IT, and communication products and services globally. Most recently, he was Director of Product Management and Marketing for MultiTech, responsible for the increasing revenue and profitability for the entire IoT/M2M portfolio, including one of the largest suites of LoRaWAN products in the industry. He has worked across multiple parts of the value chain and around the world, with stops at Ericsson in Copenhagen, Orange Business Services in London, StrategyMix in Sydney, and US West in Minneapolis.