wireless technology in health buildings

The advantages of this kind of technology are varied and sustained, which can be taken into account by installers when automating a building in the health sector.

by Jaime Jiménez *

Currently, the world is connected and wireless devices are playing a more important role. In fact, Cisco reported that in 2012, for the first time the number of connected mobile devices exceeded the number of people on the planet. The telecommunications and communications equipment company predicts that for 2016 there will be more than 10 billion mobile devices in the world, which will amount to more than 1.4 devices per person.

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On the other hand, the consultant Gartner points out that for 2020, there will be more than 30 billion everyday devices and objects such as air conditioners, refrigerators, televisions, among others, connected to the Internet; Scenario that will drive the automation of buildings, homes and offices to just a click away.

Various companies and government institutions have taken steps to automate their buildings wirelessly, implementing a variety of technological systems to control, monitor and manage climate, energy, lighting, security, and other relevant aspects of construction ; Under the challenge of systems communicating through various protocols, connecting and converging with each other to achieve greater energy efficiency and reduce operating costs.

Over the last decade, health care buildings have been a major player in the wireless revolution that has occurred with building automation. Nowadays, health professionals and administrative staff rely primarily on wireless technology to connect to each other through devices such as desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones, as well as accessing a wide range of applications and data in Computer networks of hospitals.

In fact, according to a survey conducted at 2013 by AmericanEHR Partners, in collaboration with Cientis Technologies and the American College of Physicians, the use of wireless devices has become a day-to-day situation in the hospital setting. It is not surprising that this is especially true with the health centers and medical offices that have adopted the Electronic Clinical Record (ECE).

According to this study, about one-third of ECE users report using a tablet in their medical practice. Of these, the 70% uses their device to access the digital file and 68% use them to investigate drugs. In addition, about one-third use their smartphones to communicate daily with hospital staff and other physicians.

Hospital staff also employ advanced wireless medical devices such as monitors, diagnostic tools, and infusion pumps, which are critical to delivering quality care and achieving positive patient outcomes.

Revolution of automation systems in buildings

Wireless communications technology has also transformed the field of facility management by enabling reliable operation of Building Automation Systems (BAS). These include heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) solutions and other components that are equipped with Direct Digital Control (DDC) technology, which enables centralized control and interoperability of HVAC solutions And other elements of the building system.

The most advanced wireless systems run building automation and the BACnet® control network protocol over ZigBee® Building Automation standards. BACnet allows building automation to communicate directly with different systems such as HVAC, lighting, access control, fire detection, among others. On the other hand, ZigBee Building Automation offers a global standard for interoperable products that allow tracking as well as safe and reliable control of systems in commercial buildings, being the only BACnet wireless network standard approved for this type of constructions.

BAS wireless technology also adheres to the standards of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which ensures that the wireless communication system will coexist with other wireless systems used in the installation, including Bluetooth® and Wi- Fi ™. By using these industry standards, the most advanced BAS technology enables secure, reliable, wireless monitoring as well as control over existing hospital building systems and those that will be developed in the future.

The reliability of these projects is particularly important in medical settings. The self-healing mesh technology keeps wireless communication links open, thanks to a feature that automatically directs signals around any obstructions. This technology offers a clear advantage compared to conventional wiring applications, which can fail permanently or intermittently when cables are cut, damaged or disconnected.

Recent advances in this technology have further enhanced the efficiency and reliability of the latest wireless BAS solutions. These improvements include reductions in power consumption and longer battery life for remote sensors. In addition, the use of high performance routers can double the range of previous generation equipment, simplify installation, reduce operating costs and eliminate the need to install repeaters to extend the signal throughout the hospital building.

Advantages of Wireless Controls

On the other hand, BAS wireless solutions are more flexible, installation is much faster and less expensive than implementing conventional wiring applications, offering greater reliability and performance compared to other alternatives.

There are three major advantages to implementing a Wireless Building Automation system in the health care industry:

Completion of project on time and within budget - Wireless technology significantly simplifies building control projects, both in new and existing hospitals. This makes life easier for designers, engineers, contractors and building operators.

In addition, the time and expense required to design, compute, and manage communication tasks is reduced by minimizing delays and labor costs for pulling, testing, and repairing cables.

In addition, zone sensors, controls and other equipment can be installed quickly and efficiently without penetrating building structures, because the hardware can be connected directly to the wall or ceiling, reducing the incidence of dust and Other contaminants in the environment that can adversely affect hospital indoor air quality and infection control protocols, in addition to saving time and cleaning costs. Sensors can be placed almost anywhere they are needed and can be easily moved to improve data collection and occupant comfort.

The cost of placing and relocating sensors is much lower in a wireless solution. In fact, in Trane's experience, it takes around 90 minutes per zone to relocate wired sensors, compared to less than 15 minutes for wireless ones.

Time savings are particularly important in the health care setting, where contractors often have little time to complete their work without disrupting the operation of the hospital, shutting down activities or generating income, in addition Of inconveniencing patients or hospital staff.

Easy problem solving - Fixing setbacks is easier in a wireless solution, as there are no cut cables, bad connections or cables committed to pulling the communications network. This results in significant time savings when troubleshooting and repairing faulty wiring hidden behind the walls. Unlike wireline solutions, wireless applications operate with a wireless mesh network that offers multiple data paths to keep the system running reliably.

In addition, it is easier and less expensive to relocate devices to improve detection and control, even after a project is completed. During the design phase of buildings, it is almost impossible to know exactly where sensors should be placed in a specific area of ​​the hospital, room or office because the designer does not always know where the equipment will be placed.

For example, the efficiency of an HVAC sensor or thermostat can be affected if it is placed near a patient monitor, photocopier or other equipment that generates heat. This can cause the room to be cooled too much, which affects the comfort of the occupants and wastes energy.

There may be an operational or aesthetic reason why the equipment can not be moved. However, moving the sensors is easy and economical because its position is not limited by cables. The true flexibility and cost-effectiveness of a wireless solution is revealed when hospital rooms, departments or entire floors are reconfigured or remodeled, since sensors and controllers can be easily moved at minimal cost.

Lifecycle Savings - Wireless solutions significantly reduce the cost of the building project in both new and existing structures. The cost of design and engineering takes less time, the installation is done quickly and smoothly, contributing to the realization of projects on time and within the budget. The main steps in the rewiring process can be completely eliminated. For example, there is seldom a need to perform a site inspection prior to installation in most buildings.

Material and labor costs are reduced because the process of establishing a BAS communications link is dramatically simplified. Designers are not "wired" when it comes to placing zone sensors and other system components. Sensors and user interface devices can be placed in the right place from a systems efficiency perspective - on columns, walls or any other place where the real conditions in the hospital can be detected.

Building automation devices often need to be moved throughout the building's lifecycle, a process that is much easier and faster with a wireless solution, because it is much faster to reconfigure an unchanged communications network The operation of the hospital.

Finally, BAS wireless networks contribute to the energy-efficient life cycle and cost savings of the building, allowing operators to place sensors and other devices where they will have a greater impact for the organization. The rapid growth in the use of wireless technology in the health care environment combined with significant improvements in performance and reliability have made it the ideal time for healthcare organizations to consider the benefits of implementing a solution Wireless for new buildings and existing buildings.

In this way, by automating health-care buildings with wireless solutions, hospital managers and their facility management teams can do a better job of improving comfort, reducing energy consumption and operating costs, reducing their environmental footprint And create a positive environment for the care of patients, staff and visitors.

* Jaime Jiménez is Vice President of the HVAC & Transport sector of Ingersoll Rand in Mexico in charge of the companies Thermo King and Trane.  

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