Resilient and Robust Connectivity for Medical Devices in the Developing World
The practice of medicine increasingly relies on large quantities of data—often, gigabytes from imaging, genomics, or blood-based analysis. But the medical devices that collect this data are generally designed with the assumption that Internet access is robust and always on. In the developing world, this assumption breaks down. From Addis Ababa to Zomba, cellular networks are typically the best available connectivity, and these networks experience chronic brownouts and fluctuations. The result: blood-pressure monitors, flow cytometers, and MRI scanners all function poorly, unable to send data where it can be analyzed. We have developed a relationship with medical clinics operated by the U.S.-based Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) in Kenya, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Uganda. We propose to kick-start a project to design and deploy a series of reliable Internet gateways boxes at these sites. We will use two main approaches: (1) a “robust tunnel” that masks brownouts with computer-networking techniques (e.g. aggressive retransmission and error-correction coding) to construct more-reliable connectivity out of multiple less-reliable cellular links, and (2) a “self-incentivizing network” that rewards anybody who successfully carries uploads from the medical facility to the Internet, by publicly offering to pay money in exchange for carrying an encrypted dataset to the cloud.
Amit A. Levy, James Hong, Laurynas Riliskis, Philip Levis, and Keith Winstein. 2016. Beetle: Flexible Communication for Bluetooth Low Energy. In Proceedings of the 14th Annual International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications, and Services (MobiSys '16). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 111-122. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/2906388.2906414