Getting up close and personal to Body Area Networks

We had the great pleasure of talking with Ladislau Matekovits (Electronics Department, Politecnico di Torino, Italy), an expert in the fields of numerical analysis of printed antennas, and in particular development of new, numerically efficient full-wave techniques to analyze large arrays, metamaterials and optimization techniques. He is also the general chair of BodyNets 2016, 11th International Conference on Body Area Networks, taking place on 15-16 December, 2016 in Turin, Italy.
What is the central topic of BodyNets 2016 and why is it important? What is this event’s vision?
The novel requirements of the healthcare sector, facing – among other issues – the strong demographic changes associated with aging population in almost all developed countries, put researchers in front of new and exciting challenges. Advanced electronic and networked systems allowing real-time monitoring can strongly reduce medication time and costs. Timely intervention of physicians on individuals living alone (whose numbers are constantly increasing), or in remote areas, is possible if appropriate data transmission infrastructure is guaranteed.
One part of this complex architecture is the so-called Body Area Networks (BAN) technology, i.e. the part of the communication infrastructure that directly interacts with the human body. It should be able to support both the sensing part, connected to the relative data transmission from the person under inspection to the physician, and the possibility to receive notifications and/or alerts once the data have been processed. Such technologies are already starting to enter into routine clinical practice. However, novel technologies such as nano-communication, intra/extra body communication, and others open the door for more and more accurate future diagnostics. Today, research activity is strongly driven by non-invasive exploration of living bodies. Wide-band reflectometry using adequate antennas system represents a possible way, but sometimes more accuracy is required, which can be achieved by the use of implantable sensors that can closely investigate the interested tissues and are able to communicate with the external systems. For some applications, this communication can be unidirectional for monitoring purposes, but even in these cases, the transceiver should be carefully designed to obtain the necessary data while generating as low as possible radiofrequency power within the tissues. The received signal is processed locally or sent to a remote medical center for further processing. The algorithms to extract the information are quite complex, and the low signal-to-noise ratio makes the analysis even more challenging. A bi-directional communication on the other hand represents a considerable advancement, when the sensor nodes are remotely controlled based on the feedback of the received data, for controlled drug release applications, as an example. Nevertheless, the reduced transmitter-receiver distance and the presence of different high-loss tissues introduce strong reflections.
Sponsored by EAI and CREATE-NET, BodyNets 2016 aims to be an occasion for scientists working in different areas, e.g. engineering, information technology, physicians, healthcare, etc., to share their latest findings in the area of BAN. Sharing  information, devising new applications, design of specialized devices, ad-hoc algorithms, and the way to reach them with appropriate, multidisciplinary development procedures will take place by the way of seminars and, even more importantly, by direct, face-to-face discussions. Such occasions are more effective than, and cannot be substituted by, virtual communications, that however are part of the continuous teamwork carried out in between the occasions of conferences and/or workshops. Starting from these concepts, BodyNets 2016, the 11th edition of this conference is organized in Turin, Italy, that is easily reachable by train, on the road and by air from different hubs all around the world.
What have been the recent developments in body area networks? What are the biggest challenges that this area is currently facing?
The conference proposes to collect state-of-the-art results in fields related to BANs, such as (i) Wearable Computing, (ii) Embedded Devices and Medical Applications, (iii) Communications and Networking, (iv) Systems and Applications, and (v) Antenna Applications and Propagation, which are also the main topics of the BodyNets 2016 conference.
Other hot topics in the today research community are Antennas and Propagation in Body Area Networks, Body Area NanoNETworks: Electromagnetic, Materials and Communications, Cloud-assisted Body Area Networks, Human Body Communications Millimeter-Wave Body Area Networks, Privacy, Security and Trust in Body Area Networks, Sensors and Algorithms for Human Motion Analysis and Classification, Ultra Wideband for Body Area Networking, just to mention some.
The biggest challenge is to put together research outputs from such different fields, in order to create new devices with high added-value contents that can be efficiently used also by people facing disabilities, with the intention of improving the quality of their lives.
What role will body area networks play in the next few years? How will innovation in this area shape our everyday lives?
Healthcare, as already detailed above, is very likely the main, but not the only application domain for BANs. Wellness, social interactions, emergency and rescue, as well as military are other important application areas for BANs; all of them would profit from advances in this area and in how BANs will be developed and deployed in real-working, even large scale, testbeds.
What are your expectations for the 2016 edition of BodyNets?
BodyNets 2016 aims to provide a world-leading and unique opportunity for bringing together researchers and practitioners from diverse disciplines to plan, analyze, design, build, deploy and experiment with/on BANs.
The objective of BodyNets 2016 is to collect recent findings in BAN-related bio-medical engineering research. Research results in the fields of electronics, medicine, materials science, electromagnetics, signal processing, etc. and more importantly the significance of the inter-disciplinary aspects between them that provides successful solutions are expected to be brought together.
We invite researchers from dissimilar backgrounds and specializations to contribute original practical and/or review papers tackling challenges related to the topic of this continuously growing international conference.
BodyNets 2016 represents a good opportunity to socialize with other researchers and share ideas, concepts, visions on the future of such effervescent area as BANs. Personal contacts are also a good opportunity for further fund raising through collaborations, research visits and joint project proposals.
Moreover, all accepted conference papers will be published in the Conference Proceedings (ACM Digital Library). The proceedings are submitted for inclusion to the leading indexing services: DBLP, Google Scholar, Thomson Scientific ISI Proceedings, EI Elsevier Engineering Index, CrossRef, Scopus, as well as ICST’s own EU Digital Library (EUDL) facilitating the dissemination of the discussions and of the reported results.
Outstanding articles will be encouraged to be submitted in their extended form to a Special Section in IEEE ACCESS, a multidisciplinary open access journal published by “the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity”.