In the world of IoMT (Internet of Medical Things), how a device connects to the internet is a critical question. When it comes to the how, here are seven reasons why cellular beats wi-fi for automated external defibrillators (AEDs).
But first: what’s the difference?
If you’ve ever shopped for a laptop or tablet, chances are you’ve experienced this: one version of the product is wi-fi, and the other (usually more expensive version) is cellular.
What does this mean?
If a product is wi-fi only, that means it connects to the internet via wi-fi networks. This makes it cheaper to run – but it also means that you need to be able to log in to another network any time you move the device.
Cellular means the device can connect to the internet via a cellular connection. This may involve buying a SIM card, or using in-built functionality to connect, but requires you to sign up with a carrier. As long as your device is in range of that carrier’s cellular towers or satellite connection, you’re connected to the internet.
The other most common type of device connection is Bluetooth. Bluetooth allows you to pair two Bluetooth-enabled devices to talk to each other – and, if you choose, share a cellular connection. An example of this is hot-spotting your phone’s connection so your laptop can go online.
How does this relate to internet-connected AEDs?
IoMT-enabled devices are connected to the internet to improve performance, efficiency, and reliability of healthcare practices.
An AED is one such device. An AED connected to the internet is easier to locate, maintain and use in an emergency compared to a non-connected device.
How that AED connects, however, makes a big difference to how much of a benefit that connectivity can provide.
…which leads us back to those seven reasons why cellular beats wi-fi for AEDs that we mentioned earlier.
A cellular-enabled AED can be connected at the manufacturing level, before it’s packaged and shipped. This means it’s connected to a cellular network out of the box without any additional setup required.
As long as it is kept within range of a cellular signal, it stays connected.
Which leads neatly into the next point…
A device that arrives already cellular-connected doesn’t require any manual setup. You can move it anywhere within range of a signal without needing to reconfigure the connection.
Without this capability, an AED would need to be manually reconnected every time it changes location.
A wi-fi- or Bluetooth-only AED also requires an interface to be able to configure the connection. This makes the device bulkier, heavier, and more complicated to use.
3. Carrier agnostic
A properly-equipped cellular AED does not need to rely on any one carrier’s network; any cellular signal will do.
As wi-fi networks are carrier-specific, a disruption means there is no fallback for the connected AED. It would need to be manually reconnected to a different network, or remain offline until its current network reconnects.
4. Lower cost
Inbuilt cellular, automated, and carrier-agnostic connection mean you don’t have to worry about setting up and monitoring a manual connection or maintaining a separate wi-fi network. This reduces the time and money involved in owning an AED.
Of course, if it’s not connected at all, the costs get higher. Remembering to manually monitor and maintain the device, keep it charged, and have it ready to go in an emergency is more challenging and potentially more costly than owning an AED with automatic remote monitoring capabilities.
RELATED ARTICLE: Why AEDs need to be connected
Which is why point five is:
All of which makes a more reliable device. A cellular-connected AED is more likely to be automatically monitored remotely, and ready to use when needed.
This last point is important, because disconnected AEDs are harder to maintain – making them more likely to either not have enough charge, or have components that have expired, just when you need it most.
Wi-fi signals also drop more frequently than cellular ones, making them much less attractive for devices that need to be connected 24/7.
Not having to rely on the security of third-party wi-fi networks makes a big difference when it comes to safely transmitting data.
Your AED may have superb data encryption and transmission fail safes – but if it’s relying on a wi-fi network with poor security, the risk of data being compromised is high.
By already being encrypted, cellular connections reduce the risk of a weak link.
An added complication for wi-fi-connected AEDs is if their network requires regular password changes. Failure to manually update each device every time a password expires would leave them disconnected.
All six of the previous points contribute to this last one. For all the aforementioned reasons, a cellular-enabled AED is much easier to own and use than one that relies solely on wi-fi or Bluetooth.
Just as having access to an AED provides peace-of-mind, so too does owning an AED that has cellular connectivity. It means less active maintenance, better reliability when it comes to using the device, and more efficient and secure information-sharing in the moments where patients are relying on quick decisions from emergency medical services.