Kevin E. Fu, assistant professor of computer science, has received a three-year, 449,000-dollar National Science Foundation grant to improve future security in the devices without compromising safety and effectiveness.
The expert is designing and testing zero-power technology and low-power cryptographic protocols for implantable medical devices for the two-part study.
Zero-power means the tiny chips will run without draining the device's batteries. Specifically, his research aims to assure deployment of stronger designs to meet two challenges soon to enter the scene - sharing data over the Internet and use of wirelessly programmable implants.
The UMass Amherst study will also include interviews with patients receiving new implanted cardiac rhythm management devices such as pacemakers at the Electrophysiology Laboratory at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
Patients will be asked about their expectations for security, privacy of their medical information, and how much trust they feel can be placed in their implants.
The newest devices are expected to be amazingly convenient for patients. It could soon be possible for a person with an implanted cardiac device to go on vacation to Hawaii, for example, and for the device to report to her physician over the Internet.