March 31, 2023

6G-Health kick-off: Better healthcare with 6G networking

March 31, 2023

Starting now, the Fraunhofer Heinrich-Hertz-Institut (HHI) is developing fundamental technology components for 6G-based medical applications in the research project "6G-Health " (Holistic Development of High-Performance 6G Networking for Distributed Medical Technology Systems). The goal is to incorporate the results into international 6G standardization. 6G-Health officially started in October 2022 and will run until October 2025. The team has now started its project work. 6G-Health is led by Vodafone and funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with 10 million euros. Of this, Fraunhofer HHI will receive one million euros.

6G will unlock new opportunities to improve healthcare. For the first time, the next-generation mobile communications standard will be more than just a radio network: 6G will integrate sensing, mobile communications and computing power to connect virtual and real worlds in the best possible way.

In healthcare, for instance, this means that patients' vital parameters are sensed, processed and transmitted directly via the 6G network. Doctors and nurses will benefit from new forms of collaboration through these enhanced network functionalities - for example, through augmented reality (AR) applications or telemedicine. In addition, secure communication will facilitate interaction between humans and machines enabling, for example, support structures worn on the body (exoskeletons) to help patients walk or nurses push beds. This requires very low latencies. In addition, the use of AI in network technology will optimize energy efficiency.

In order to use these technologies extensively in medical care, the 6G-Health team is analyzing the performance requirements that essential for the next generation of mobile communications. Based on this, the researchers will develop 6G components for future medical technology applications and evaluate them together with clinical partners. Their research results will ultimately be incorporated into the international 6G standardization process.

Fraunhofer HHI is involved in the project with its "Wireless Communications and Networks" department. In 6G-Health, the team is developing concrete technology components for 6G-based, networked medical systems. To this end, they are extending the existing sensor technology for recording vital parameters with 6G technology components (e.g., through energy-efficient, AI-based preprocessing). In addition, the researchers are developing novel methods for vital parameters acquisition. For these procedures, the experts are working with so-called "Integrated Communication and Sensing" (ICAS). ICAS combines sensing and communication through the mobile radio system in order to exploit network resources efficiently and to realize wide-area environmental sensing. Using this approach, physicians can monitor medically relevant (vital) parameters and contextual information, from inside the hospital and from the patients home, e.g., before a surgery.

The 6G Health project complements the work of Fraunhofer HHI researchers in the BMBF-funded Research Hub 6G-RIC . In this project, scientists have been working on the development of 6G since August 2021. They use the close collaboration in the 6G Health Consortium to coordinate requirements for the mobile communications standard and its future application in the medical field with clinical partners. This enables the experts to identify potential 6G applications at an early stage and lay the foundations for them in 6G standardization.

In addition to Fraunhofer HHI, the other partners include Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Vodafone Group Services GmbH, Siemens AG, Infineon Technologies AG, NXP Semiconductors Germany GmbH, inomed Medizintechnik GmbH, SectorCon Ingenieurgesellschaft GmbH, SurgiTAIX AG, Berlin Heart GmbH, CTC advanced GmbH,   Innovationszentrum für Computerassistierte Chirurgie (ICCAS), Institut der Medizinischen Fakultät der Universität Leipzig, Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, ERNW Research GmbH, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Interdisziplinäres Zentrum Medizin – Ethik – Recht,  Smart Mobile Labs AG, Universität Bremen, Arbeitsbereich Nachrichtentechnik, Universität Rostock, Fakultät für Informatik und Elektrotechnik, Institut für Angewandte Mikroelektronik und Datentechnik.