FCC: Help us encourage wireless health innovations

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 28, 2009        

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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) just announced a plan to examine the mobile phone industry in an effort to determine ways that the agency can spur innovation and competition in the industry. The FCC highlighted four key markets ripe for wireless innovation: health care, energy, education and public safety and is seeking comments on how it can best go about facilitating innovation in those areas. The FCC specifically points to “personal medical monitoring devices [that] can send data to a physician or health care facility using a commercial wireless network” as an example of the type of innovation it is trying to encourage.

“Of course, no one can really predict with confidence exactly how the revolution in mobile broadband will ultimately affect our society and our economy. But it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that the effects are going to be deep and far-reaching. Mobile broadband will create and support many of the great companies, technologies, and applications of tomorrow,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement. “It will play an essential role in supporting the long-term health of our economy and creating new jobs for American workers. It will enable all of us to be more productive and more connected everywhere we go. And, I believe, it will have positive consequences for our nation’s ability to solve pressing problems like health care, energy, education, and public safety.”

The FCC’s notice of inquiry (NOI), includes a request for comments on how it can help facilitate wireless innovation in healthcare:

“We are interested in learning how the public has used wireless services and technology to find innovative solutions to real-world problems in areas such as health care, energy, education, and public safety,” The FCC NOI reads. “Moreover, we seek to develop a framework for analyzing wireless innovation, including metrics or data sources that we should consider, the role of research and development as the generator of innovation, and the relationship between innovation and investment… We seek to understand this aspect of wireless innovation, to learn more regarding how wireless communications are being used to provide practical benefits, particularly in instances of broad public benefit, to identify any barriers or deterrents to innovation in the use of wireless services and to take steps where appropriate and necessary to facilitate or accommodate such innovation.”

Here’s some of the questions the FCC has posed for comments — the answers to them may end up shaping the regulatory framework for wireless healthcare, so be sure to weigh in if you have an opinion:

What are the implications of IP- based wireless networks for innovation?

Will commercial wireless IP networks provide opportunities for new applications that might otherwise require separate spectrum and networks?

What obstacles may exist and how can they be addressed?

What are the ramifications of such use for wireless network design and capabilities?

As more applications move from specialized networks to IP-based networks, what challenges must be met if the Internet is to remain the platform of innovation?

What future business models may facilitate applications on wireless IP-based networks and how can the Commission encourage the development of such models?