The objective of this research is to investigate, develop, and demonstrate fundamentally novel approaches for precise wireless location systems reaching submillimeter accuracy in indoor environments. The research program is focused in three areas: (1) system-level design concerns and quantifying their effects on system accuracy; (2) realization of novel system architectures through development of integrated microwave hardware; (3) quantifiable testing of system performance in realistic hospital environments using novel, real-time testing platforms.
Intellectual Merit: The research will address the central difficulties in developing wireless location systems with sub-mm accuracy including reflections of wireless signals from metallic surfaces, electronics limitations including noise and sampling rates, and location errors caused by antennas. The research has the potential to fundamentally change the achievable accuracy of indoor wireless location systems into millimeter and sub-millimeter accuracy for new location-aware clinical applications including smart medical instruments, surgical navigation, and wireless body-area-networks. It has the potential to be transformative by overcoming inherent limitations of current real-time location systems.
Broader Impacts: The impact of this research will be felt not only by engineers working towards wireless location systems for surgical navigation and location-aware smart sensing medical instruments, but for scientists working in fundamental areas including microwave-based biological sensors and characterization of biological tissues at microwave frequencies. Graduate and undergraduate students involved in this research will gain expertise in design, fabrication, and testing of state-of-the-art radio frequency integrated circuits. Outreach activities include mentoring of high-school students and participation in the Tennessee Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.
Current commercial ultra-wideband indoor tracking systems are limited to around 10 cm of accuracy. This limitation required pushing the boundary of what is possible with a wireless indoor tracking system to create a system accurate to within 1-2 mm, which is the required accuracy for surgical navigation and guidance. This wireless indoor tracking technology can be integrated into designing smart surgical tools and diagnostic equipment for computer assisted surgery applications. Wireless tracking and sensing technologies can be used to evaluate and improve the performance of medical personnel to advance the overall quality of healthcare. Lastly, exercise science can benefit from these instruments such that we can develop strategies to prevent and minimize the athletesâ€™ injuries and promote faster recoveries. We developed a precise wireless indoor location system for the healthcare industry that supports improved surgical outcomes and brings sensor and tracking technology to the next generation of wireless medical devices by improving positioning accuracy to just a few millimeters and optimizing the wireless link for operation in hospital environments. Results from this project include real-time dynamic experiments which mitigate many sources of noise and error that occur in harsh indoor environments while achieving 3-D accuracy of 2-3 millimeters. The intellectual merit of this technology lies in its potential to fundamentally change the achievable accuracy of indoor wireless localization systems into millimeter or sub-millimeter accuracy for an array of new location-aware clinical applications including smart medical instruments, surgical navigation, and wireless body-area-networks. The novel ultra-wideband (UWB) localization techniques developed here have a strong potential to be transformative by overcoming inherent limitations of current real-time location systems (RTLS) that have been exhaustively investigated and developed for decades. In addition to addressing these fundamental issues, the proposed work will open up new areas of research in rapid prototype system-level design of UWB localization systems as well as comprehensive development and testing platforms for UWB localization systems in clinical settings to optimize usage for hospitals and ambient assisted living. The broader impact of this wireless indoor location technology can be felt in the healthcare industry to improve surgical outcomes and enable wireless tracking and data communication for the next generation of medical devices. This technology has direct and significant impact on indoor wireless positioning systems, surgical navigation, wireless bio-sensors, and biological sensing – fields that rely critically on high accuracy localization and accurate detection of changes in dielectric properties at microwave frequencies. Wireless tracking and sensing technologies can be used to evaluate and improve the performance of medical personnel in medical procedure simulations where professionals are trained on simulating machines. In addition, this technology can be integrated into wireless sensing networks for ambient assisted living. Finally, wireless wearable electronics and alarm systems can allow direct vital signs monitoring without introducing inconveniences such as immobility to the person.