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Cars to use Wi-Fi to prevent crashes

Ofcom says it could happen within 10 years

A car crash

Wireless technology will probably be used to prevent car crashes and provide health monitoring within the next 10 to 20 years, according to research released today.

Cars are likely to built with sensors that automatically summon emergency services after a crash, or prevent collisions by alerting vehicles of sudden braking, while handheld scanners could check food barcodes for allergy information, Ofcom’s Tomorrow’s Wireless World report said.

The study looked at how wireless technology is likely to be adapted over the next 10 to 20 years.

Wireless technology

The report said wireless communication was now ‘integral to our lives’, with mobile subscriptions outnumbering the total UK population by 10 million.

Ofcom said it carried out the research to prepare for future demands on the UK’s radio frequencies, or spectrum, that wireless services use.

The report focused on advances in healthcare and transport, after working with independent experts and government departments.

Networks in a human

Among the predictions are ‘in-body networks’ ied inside a patient to allow doctors to monitor their recovery remotely.

Sensors would monitor the patient’s movements and vital health signs and use the information to send an alert via a home hub or a portable monitor.

A number of universities in the UK are researching such networks, the report said.

Vital sign checks

Small monitors using Bluetooth or other wireless technology could be worn by patients to check vital signs like pulse and blood pressure to monitor chronic conditions, such as heart conditions, asthma or diabetes.

A community healthcare trial developing the technology is currently taking place in Portsmouth.

Other devices include medication boxes that sense if they have been opened each day at the right time and wireless food scanners that use the same technology adopted by mail companies to track post.

Braking alerts

Ofcom said many major car manufacturers were developing wireless systems that allowed cars to automatically alert each other to sudden braking.

The devices could be fitted to vehicles by 2015, the report said.

Sensors fitted in cars that automatically alert emergency services to an accident are under discussion by the European Commission and could be on the market by 2001.

Traffic alerts

Systems to alert drivers to congestion and help those with sensitivities to smog, pollution or pollen avoid certain routes are being pioneered in Japan, the US and parts of Europe.

Peter Ingram, Ofcom’s chief technology officer, said: ‘This report demonstrates the many creative ways the radio spectrum can be used for the benefit of UK citizens and consumers.

‘There is nothing new about these technologies. They just require us getting organised and making use of what’s already out there.’

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