Spacelabs is adopting 802.11b for the SL 2400 patient monitor. Here's the breathless intro to the announcement:

As part of the company's
commitment to open standards and connectivity, Spacelabs has developed
an innovative wireless solution that is capable of operating on a
hospitals existing wireless infrastructure while coexisting with other
wireless applications.

To their credit, there will also be a field upgrade kit coming for existing SL 2400 compact monitors. They're targeting the wireless option for use during patient transport.

Poking around on their site, I came across this additional information:

  • Utilizes an industry-standard 802.11b IEEE compliant radio card - for everyone's sake, I hope they validated to a Wi-Fi standard rather than the specific card, otherwise they'll be 1) validating a new card every 6 to 18 months, or 2) selling a discontinued and obsolete card in 6 to 18 months.
  • Designed to operate on existing wireless infrastructures that support
    802.11b, thereby maximizing existing wireless infrastructure while
    managing additional costs - exactly how they do this is not described. Let's hope they don't require anything crazy like a hospital-wide VLAN dedicated to the SL 2400 - a VLAN for medical devices does make sense. A specialized site survey, minimum AP density and possibly redundant APs could be required.
  • Standard WEP40 and WEP128 security and encryption to help hospitals protect patient information - bummer. In the network security world, the consensus is that WEP does not provide adequate security. Tools readily available on the Internet can be used to crack WEP in just a day or two. WEP uses the same encryption key indefinitely by all clients. Current WLAN security practice is to use dynamic keys that are renewed on a preconfigured time period. Industry standard alternatives to WEP include TKIP, AES, 802.1x authentication, and 802.11i. (Here's the original paper from some geeks at UC Berkeley that was the beginning of the end of WEP.)

I hope to learn a lot more about this and the GE Dash at HIMSS.