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Enabling secure wireless medical devices with MCU

10 Jul 2013  | Jerome Schang

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Nowadays, developers and users of portable medical devices continue to demand more connectivity and longer battery lifetimes. For example, IMS Research's press release in June 2012 projects that Bluetooth Smart used in medical devices powered by coin-cell batteries will gain tremendous momentum over other wireless technologies. Supporting this trend, Texas Instruments (TI) introduced the first semiconductor products based on its game changing "Wolverine" technology platform—MSP430FR59xx microcontrollers—which are touted to have features enabling secure connectivity in personal portable and connected health care devices. This paper will introduce TI's embedded solutions leveraging MSP430FR59xx microcontrollers and the CC2541 Bluetooth low energy series for use in medical devices that support the secured-telehealth ecosystem.

The portable medical market has constantly evolved over the past two decades. As the world becomes increasingly connected, connected health, or telehealth, has become a prevalent trend in medical device technology. Below are a few key industry trends:

 • More than 10.3 million consumer medical Bluetooth Smart devices will ship worldwide between 2012 and 2016, and more than 4.7 million in 2016 alone, according to IMS Research.
 • IMS Research revealed that with its low-power consumption, Bluetooth Smart will be the dominant wireless technology on consumer medical devices by 2016 despite the fact that only 5 per cent of medical devices have any wireless connectivity capability in 2012.
 • In the report "Wireless Opportunities in Health and Wellness Monitoring 2012 Edition," IMS Research found that more than 35 per cent of all wireless-enabled consumer medical devices shipping in 2016 will feature Bluetooth Smart technology.
In these portable medical devices, the Bluetooth Smart technology enables the device to collect vital data and then transfer that information to a Bluetooth Smart Ready device, such as a laptop, smartphone or tablet. These consumer devices can then transfer the data using cellular networks or Wi-Fi to a cloud platform so doctors can monitor a patient's condition. While this may seem simple enough, electronically storing and transmitting medical data requires careful consideration of patient privacy regulations. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) enacted in 1996 aims to streamline electronic health record systems and impose strict electronic security regulations. As the trend towards electronic enabled medical records and telemedicine continues, medical practitioners have the same duty to safeguard a patient's medical records and keep their treatments confidential as was required with traditional paper records. In fact, because electronic documents can more easily be duplicated and transmitted, storage of electronic files, images, audio and video needs to be done with an even higher level of security. As a result, digital security needs to be carefully considered in the development of any portable medical device.

Enabling low-power security with microcontrollers
TI's MSP430FR59xx microcontrollers enable the design of medical devices with secure connectivity and storage for remote devices with displays such as smart phones, tablets or medical aggregation devices to help ensure that the chain of confidentiality remains intact. In conjunction with wireless products from TI, this FRAM-based product series can provide wired and wireless connectivity to healthcare devices, including blood pressure monitors, blood glucose meters, weight scales, pulse oximeters and more via ZigBee, sub-1GHz, Bluetooth, Bluetooth low energy, and USB, utilising the personal healthcare device class (PHDC) protocol.

To help ensure that data remains confidential, Bluetooth low energy inherits the encryption, authentication and authorisation security from "classic" Bluetooth technology. The encryption technique uses the advanced encryption standard (AES), which was a technique adopted as a standard by the U.S. government.

The AES technology is featured inside of MSP430FR59xx microcontrollers, which, combined with the MSP430FR59xx microcontrollers' memory protection unit, enables a high level of security for portable medical devices.

About health device profile supported by CC2541
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has developed "Health Device Profile" (HDP) software to optimise performance of classic Bluetooth for health applications and deliver data in a standard format requested by the medical practitioners. Similarly, the SIG is developing HDP software for Bluetooth low energy.

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