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Bluetooth® and NFC combine for secure pairing in portable healthcare devices

Bluetooth® and NFC combine for secure pairing in portable healthcare devices

Increased reliance on mobile devices means that security of data is becoming a concern for more and more consumers.  This is particularly true in healthcare applications where Bluetooth-based devices wirelessly transfer some of our most personal and sensitive data.

Bluetooth incorporates AES-128 encryption and Elliptical Curve Diffie-Hellman (ECDH) coding as adopted in the BT4.2 standard, which provides robust resistance to eavesdropping during pairing and decryption of intercepted packets. ECDH introduces a more secure way of protecting the pairing by using public and 2 private keys to allow the connection set up between two Bluetooth devices However, both security and ease of use can be improved by also incorporating Near-Field Communication (NFC) to enhance pairing, as NFC offers additional security over and above ECDH. In addition, highly efficient NFC can be used to save battery power of portable devices.

As NFC requires devices to be in close proximity, it avoids the MITM threat and prevents unwanted devices connecting without the user’s knowledge or permission. This can be done using what is known as Out-of-Band (OoB) pairing, whereby security keys for pairing information are only transferred within the limited NFC range of up to 10cm. NFC pairing is easy and straightforward, and is usually accomplished by bringing the two devices briefly into contact.

Take, for example, a healthcare application where data is downloaded to a fixed data collection and processing device every few days or so. The fixed device can remain completely powered down until the operator brings an NFC-enabled mobile device into close proximity (“tagging”). The initial energy to wake the fixed device is supplied via the NFC antenna. This means that the BLE device can be in deep sleep mode all the time (e.g. remaining in the cupboard for months or years) to ensure virtually zero power consumption (the BLE IoT node does not check for communication requests when it is not needed for a long period of time). Once the credentials of the reading device have been established, a connection can be established using BLE.

In practice the pairing and communication is quite simple and intuitive, with NFC and Bluetooth each ‘playing to their strengths'. Once the pairing is complete, both devices are able to open a secure, Bluetooth communication to transfer data. The mobile handset may also initiate an application depending on the NFC data content.

Toshiba has produced a white paper that looks at how designers can use the latest Bluetooth-enabled technologies to deliver the low power, small form factor and security that the latest wearable healthcare devices demand. To download this paper click here:

Click here to learn more about the advances in Bluetooth-enabled technologies and wearable healthcare devices

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·Before creating and producing designs and using, customers must also refer to and comply with the latest versions of all relevant TOSHIBA information and the instructions for the application that Product will be used with or for.