According to media reports, a Chinese surgeon has performed the world’s first remote brain surgery using 5G technology on a patient 3 000 km away. The doctor implanted a neurostimulator into the brain of a patient with Parkinson’s disease.
The doctor, who was on the island of Hainan, off China’s south cost, used a computer connected to the next-generation 5G network to control surgical robots in a hospital in Beijing. Conventional 4G networks do not allow surgical operations to be performed due to latency, which is the time taken by networks to respond.
Medical robotics relies on IEC International Standards to help ensure that the design and manufacture of parts meet the strictest requirements. The Subcommittees (SCs) and Working Groups (WGs) of IEC Technical Committee (TC) 62: Electrical equipment in medical practice, have been responsible for carrying out the bulk of the medical equipment standardization work required to formulate the IEC 60601 family of Standards. These cover the safety requirements for medical electrical (ME) equipment and medical electrical systems (MES) in current use.
IEC SC 62A: Common aspects of electrical equipment used in medical practice, formed Joint Working Group (JWG) 9 with ISO TC 184/SC 2: Robotics and robotic devices in June 2011; the Joint Working Group is now linked to ISO/TC 299/JWG 5. The JWG 9 remit is to “develop general requirements and guidance related to the safety of medical electrical equipment and systems that utilize robotic technology. The work encompasses medical applications (including aids for the disabled) covering invasive and non‑invasive procedures such as surgery, rehabilitation therapy, imaging and other robots for medical diagnosis and treatment”.
Surgical robots incorporate sensors, for example to relay information or allow levels of force to be applied precisely. Manufacturers can build more reliable and efficient and safer sensors and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) thanks to International Standards prepared by IEC TC 47: Semiconductor devices, and IEC SC 47F: Microelectromechanical systems.
Currently, 5G field tests are underway around the world and several operators have already announced plans for commercial rollout later this year. 5G will serve as the communications backbone necessary for the large growth in data and connectivity of today’s modern society, from the IoT with billions of connected devices, to self-driving cars and smart cities.
With worldwide rollout planning underway, the IEC is well advanced in the development of standards for human safety and device compliance. IEC Technical Committee (TC) 106 is playing a key role.
IEC 62232, issued by TC 106, provides methods for determining the radio-frequency field strength near the radio-communication base stations with the intention of evaluating human exposure. This Standard takes into account the mmWave frequencies to be used for 5G networks.
For devices, TC 106, together with the IEEE, has established a new joint working group to develop international standards for 5G device testing by 2020 and is developing a Technical Report for publication in the first quarter of 2019.