Mitsubishi Electric Engineering Co., Ltd., Citizen Systems Japan Co., Ltd., Sharp Corp., Tanita Co., Ltd. and Hitachi, Ltd. have jointly developed a communications protocol to establish connection between home healthcare devices from different manufacturers so that the devices can exchange information with one another. The five companies have successfully conducted a feasibility test of the protocol in real homes. The companies made the protocol available to the public in a bid to make the protocol the industry's standard communication method for home healthcare equipment.
Independent of the physical layer
The companies are members involved in a project entitled "Development of High-Performance Health Evaluation Equipment for Home Healthcare" subsidized by Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and have promoted the development of communications protocol and so on since 2003. The companies have successfully finished adjusting the protocol through the results of the field test conducted in 100 households and established the specifications and so announced it officially.
The protocol is used when interconnecting healthcare equipment such as blood pressure meter, weight scale and blood glucose meter with home gateway devices. The protocol specifies layers above the network/transport layer of the OSI reference model without depending on the physical layer. Both wired and wireless devices are expected to be used as transmission media. Further, the protocol has such capabilities as "inquiry notification function" and "device registration notification function." The former function allows the inquiry of data between various kinds of devices and the latter function notifies when a new device is added to the network.
The companies aim to create a market of healthcare equipment tailored to personal health management services through the standardization of communications protocol. It is anticipated that health management businesses targeting various measures to deal with metabolic syndrome will be rolled out on a full-scale basis after the revision of Japan's health insurance law, slated for the spring of 2008. To operate such health management services, it is necessary to obtain information on various healthcare equipment such as pedometer, blood pressure meter and body fat scale via network. In this regard, it has been pointed out that the communication method for enabling the transmission between devices from any manufacturers is necessary.
At the press conference, the companies emphasized the interoperability between devices from different manufacturers by actually connecting a blood pressure meter, body composition meter, athletic ability measuring device, etc. equipped with a transceiver function of Bluetooth and the specified low power radio equipment to the network. The protocol supports the transmission of data with a large amount of information, e.g. continuous ECG waveform data.
To adopt it as a JIS standard, the latest protocol is currently being discussed at the Special Committee of Japanese Industrial Standards Committee. It is expected to be approved around summer 2007. Further, toward adoption as a global standard, the protocol was also submitted to the Personal Health WG of IEEE11073.