The rumors about whitespace radio reforms—which would give empty swathes of the electromagnetic spectrum to new wireless Internet technology—are building on both sides of the Atlantic. But Google has already leaped into action and is testing a wide-area broadband solution in an Ohio hospital. It's a solution that uses gaps in the TV transmission bands.
The experiment can be found Hocking Valley Community Hospital in Logan, Ohio. Google's blog notes it's the first of its kind for a hospital. The system uses technology from Google partner Spectrum Bridge to establish a wireless broadband network in the gaps between local terrestrial transmissions. Google monitors the TV whitespace to make sure there's no interference.
The hope is that the improvement in broadband coverage across the hospital site will "spark new applications in healthcare." The hospital's video surveillance system is already using the wireless connection to transmit its data. Emergency vehicles are covered too, which means we could see patient data sent from an ambulance to the relevant admitting sector of the hospital before the patient arrives—saving vital minutes, and perhaps some lives. We can only guess at the potential for other kinds of digital triage and patient record management.
Google is announcing the experiment now to influence the FCC's decision on whitespace allocations—due for a vote on September 23rd. Does using a noble hospital experiment to push a wider agenda in Washington fall under the heading of "being evil"? There's a question to tax the minds of ethicists.
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