Wireless/Mobile Apps

Doctors assess patients over long distance wi-fi connection

Residents of remote villages in southern India now have easy access to eye care thanks to a specially designed, low-cost and long-distance wi-fi network.The network allows specialists at Aravind Eye Hospital at Theni, in the state of Tamil Nadu, to virtually examine patients in nine remote clinics via high-quality video conference. The new technology developed by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and at Intel Corporation in collaboration with the Indian hospital.was the result of research targetted towards the demands of the developing nations, with requirements for inexpensive and robust wireless networking technology. The Berkeley scientists adapted existing wi-fi technology, as an alternative to the wimax technology which is expensive. The key challenge is that wi-fi is designed for short, and not long distance communication. They discovered that one can get the radio signal to go further just using better antennas. However, in doing so, one has to pick a particular direction for the signal. This long-distance wi-fi is a fixed, point to point wireless technology, like microwave links. This could revolutionise the delivery of health care services and greatly improve the quality of life in the rural developing world. The innovation for the India wi-fi system was to provide high bandwidth, for high quality video imaging, over long distances.The researchers redesigned the software, so that some of the unneeded information typically sent over a wi-fi connection was discarded. By combining their modified software with directional antennas and routers to send, receive and relay signals, the research team so far has been able to obtain network speeds of up to six megabits per second (Mpbs) at distances up to 40 miles. But the team has obtained even more impressive results, in their current world record, they achieved almost 6 megabits/second over a distance of 384 kilometres using only one link. These tests were carried out in a project in Venezuela last summer. Vision centres in the region are now conducting real-time eye exams with doctors in Theni, over a direct connection 150 times as fast as the old dial-up modem, which used to cost $200 a year.

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