A Hybrid Optical-Radio Wireless Network Concept for the Hospital of the Future

In this chapter, we consider a hybrid optical-radio wireless network as a flexible, secure and high-performance communication network for the hospital of the future. The network consists of access points as well as devices capable to communicate using optical and radio technologies. Wireless body area networks (WBAN) are one of the key elements needed to achieve the desired goals. Within the proposed hybrid network, we extend the conventional WBAN concept to a more generic and highly flexible, reconfigurable optical-radio wireless body area network (RORWBAN). Ultimately, the concept of hospital of the future aims at enhancing healthcare while using thoughtfully and efficiently hospital resources. Wireless networks are one of the key enables of tomorrow’s hospitals. However, spectral usage, security, safety, and privacy issues of current radio-based wireless networks could undermine the attractiveness of these networks for future healthcare scenarios. The proposed solution, combining optical and radio transmission results in a network that can adapt itself in short- and long term to the changing communication requirements of hospitals. In principle, a hybrid network can tackle interference, exposure, privacy, and other key problems of conventional networks. The proposed system could intelligently reduce the exposure to radiation and generation of radio interference, while parallel optical-radio transmission could ensure secure, reliable and high capacity communications, using efficiently the available spectrum. In this chapter, the overall concept will be presented, and the possible operation scenarios and applications will be introduced too. Finally, we discuss the challenges of hybrid optical-radio WBAN for future hospitals.