End-to-End Performance Optimization in Hybrid Molecular and Electromagnetic Communications

01/01/2019 ∙ by Ali Momeni, et al. ∙ 0

Telemedicine refers to the use of information and communication technology to assist with medical information and services. In health care applications, high reliable communication links between the health care provider and the desired destination in the human body play a central role in designing end-to-end (E2E) telemedicine system. In the advanced health care applications, e.g. drug delivery, molecular communication becomes a major building block in bio-nano-medical applications. In this paper, an E2E communication link consisting of the electromagnetic and the molecular link is investigated. This paradigm is crucial when the body is a part of the communication system. Based on the quality of service (QoS) metrics, we present a closed-form expression for the E2E BER of the combination of molecular and wireless electromagnetic communications. Next, we formulate an optimization problem with the aim of minimizing the bit error probability of the system to achieve the optimal symbol duration. The proposed problem is solved by an iterative algorithm based on the bisection method. Also, we study the impact of the system parameters, including drift velocity, detection threshold at the receiver in molecular communication, on the performance of the system. Numerical results show that the proposed method obtains the minimum E2E bit error probability by selecting an appropriate symbol duration of electromagnetic and molecular communications.



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I Introduction

In our modern era, the amount of the required health care services is rapidly increasing. These high expectancies are going to overtake a proportional increase in health system infrastructures and professional personnel [1]. Telemedicine, which can be defined as the implementation of telecommunication technologies to provide medical services, has been introduced as a promising solution for the increasing shortages of the traditional medicine.

Telemedicine allows the measurement of biological and vital signals regardless of the boarders and distances. In the telemedicine paradigm, the biological signals are obtained through variety of the biological sensing technologies, from the simple pulse oxiometer and temperature sensors to more sophisticated electrophysiological and electrocardiology devices [2]. The gathered signals must be post-processed, and eventually transmitted to the associated health care provider. The exterior communication hardwares are placed in order to form the pathway from the on-body devices to at a distant hospital or physicians’ station. One of the advanced applications of the telemedicine is the drug delivery which can be controlled via end-to-end (E2E) communication links. The drug delivery is an engineered method to deliver drugs to their targeted locations while minimizing the undesired side effects. One of the most important drug delivery applications is gene therapy. The utilization of the drug delivery in the gene therapy allows to convey of the desired genetic information to the patient’s organism [3]. The main challenge in the gene therapy is minimizing the risk of in vivo toxicity and prolonging the lifespan of the payload. Also, the gene expression is short-lived due to the degradation of the plasmid in the nucleus [4]. Consequently, the high reliable with minimum error probability E2E-telemedicine communication links are crucial in gene therapy.

The E2E communication scenario plays a central and fundamental role in designing the telemedicine system between the health care provider and the human body. The applicability of the telemedicine crucially depends on the reliability of E2E communication links [5]. Therefore, several quality of service (QoS) metrics are defined as the measurement of the performance criteria for E2E communication, in which several reliable communication links must work together in various circumstances and media including “inner”, “in-to-on”, “on”, and “off” body areas.

Inspired by nature, one of the best solutions for inner body communication is to use chemical signals for carrying the information inside the human body to nanomachines through nanonetworks  [6, 7]. This communication paradigm, which is called Molecular Communication (MC) [8], has several advantages in comparison to electromagnetic based and acoustic wave based communication. The advantages includes but not limited to low energy consumption, the bio-compatible characteristics, and the existence of the biological receptors to serve as antenna [8]. Similar to Electromagnetic Communication (EC), different aspects of the communication have been studied in MC, such as channel modeling [9], noise and interference [10], and modulation and coding [11]. Recently, Diffusion-based Molecular Communication (DMC) has been received a significant attention among various MC propagation scenarios such as walk-way or flow-based [9]. In DMC, without any additional and external energy, the molecules carrying the information propagate via Brownian motion in all available directions in a fluidic medium [12, 9]. However, the major challenge of DMC is its high limited range of the communication [13]. The intermediate nanomachines, which are serving as relays, are deployed to overcome this issue. The performance of relay-assisted DMC is investigated in [14].

In-to-on body (in2on-body) wireless communication is the EC between nanomachines inside the body and the wearable device on the surface of the body skin [15]. The main propagation environments of electromagnetic waves are inside and around the human body. On-body wireless communication is the interconnection and networking between wearable devices and the gateway transceivers [15]. And ultimately, off-body wireless communication carries information from gateway transceivers to health care providers. The evaluation of the performance of the special scenario involving both the “in-body to on-body” and “on-body to off-body” electromagnetic wireless propagation links, including bit error rate (BER), energy consumption, and data rate are considered in [16].

In this study, we assume that inner nanomachines send information to a distant health care provider via DMC, inner-body, in2on-body, on-body, and off-body links as E2E-telemedicine communication. The time is divided into multiple slots with equal durations. At each time slot, a message is transmitted from inner nanomachine to the distant health care provider. In addition, the time slots are divided into several symbol durations for conveying the information in each link. The inner nanomachine sends its massage to the relay then the relay sends the received massage to the receiver nanomachine and ultimately through this sequence the massage is received by the health care system. Due to the fact that no buffer is considered in the nanomachines, EC and DMC communications should be in serial111 It means as soon as the packet arrives at an intermediate node, it is relayed over the next link towards the destination.. Therefore, BER and the delay of EC and DMC communication affects the E2E-BER and the total delay. It implies that the combination of EC and DMC must be considered as an integrated communication link. In addition, some telemedicine services are imposing the limited delivery time of the command from the health care provider to the end nanomachine. It results in a compromise between the EC and DMC symbol durations. The main question we aim to answer is: How to choose the physical layer parameters, such as the symbol durations, in order to minimize the E2E BER? For answering this question, we firstly derive the analytical closed-form expression of E2E-BER when binary pulse shift keying (BPSK) modulation for EC and on-off keying (OOK) modulation for DMC is employed. Then, we formulate the optimization problem to determine the optimal symbol durations in EC and DMC and solve it by using the bisection algorithm. We also study the effect of the system parameters including the drift velocity and the detection threshold of DMC receiver on the performance of the E2E system.

The rest of paper is organized as follows: In Section II, the system model is described. In Section III, the channel model of each communication is formulated, and the optimization problem is formulated and solved in Section IV. The numerical results are presented in Section V, and finally, the paper is concluded in Section VI.

Ii system model

We assume the E2E e-health communication includes molecular and electromagnetic wireless communication. In this E2E e-health system, the information is exchanged between the health care provider and nanomachines/receptors in the body environment. The considered E2E e-health system is shown in Fig.1. One should note that all inner-body communications are DMC and in2on-body, on-body, and off-body communications are EC. According to the imposed E2E delivery time, the total time duration of each time slot denoted by , is divided into two time durations: one for DMC denoted by , and the other one for EC denoted by (). Fig. 2 illustrates the symbol time duration and the dedicated time intervals of each communication type in the proposed system model.

Figure 1: Overview of E2E e-health communication.
Figure 2: Symbol durations in the considered DMC and EC systems.

Ii-a Inner-body communication

To improve the communication range in MC, the relay-assisted DMC system with drift is employed [14]. This MC system consists of a source nanomachine, denoted by Node , which only transmits information signals, a destination nanomachine, denoted by Node , which receives molecular-type signals as information particles, and finally a relay nanomachine, denoted by Node , which is relaying molecular-type signals. Fig. 3 demonstrates the relay-assisted diffusion-based molecular communication system employed in this article.

As could be seen in Fig. 2, the relay assisted molecular communication occurs at the beginning of each time slot, i.e., . The assisting relay node is transmitting and receiving in the full-duplex fashion and also we assume is divided into two intervals of equal duration. In the first interval, denoted by , the source transmits the information to the relay. Next, the relay receives this information and transmits the received information towards the destination in the second interval, denoted by . We adopt OOK modulation in which the transmitter nodes ( or ) release molecules to send information bit “1” and no molecule to send information bit “0” at the beginning of the time slot222 In the case that another modulation scheme is employed in the molecular communication, just in (14) and (23) should be adjusted accordingly.. Also, node exploits type- molecules which can be detected by node , and node uses type- molecules which can be detected by node . The use of two different types of molecules guarantees nearly interference free communication.

Ii-B Wireless communications links

EC between nanomachines inside the body (for example in the blood vessels) and the wearable device on the body skin or at most 20 mm away from it, is called in2on-body communication [16]. The wearable device communicates with node electromagnetically in its own time interval. The communication between the wearable device on the body skin and the gateway on the body or at most 20 cm away from it, is called on-body communication [16]. The gateway connects the on-body part to the off-body part via EC, in its own time interval. Finally, the off-body wireless part carries information from the gateway to the health care provider in the last time interval of the time slot. Further details of EC channel model and the corresponding BER are described in the following section.

The main parameters and notification used throughout this paper is listed in Table I.

Figure 3: Relay-assisted diffusion-based molecular communication system.
parameter Variable
Drift velocity v
Diffusion coefficient D
Molecular noise mean

Molecular noise variance

Molecular symbol duration
Number of molecules for sending bit-1
Distance between nodes T and D
Detection threshold
Distance between nanomachine and wearable device
Distance between wearable device and gateway
SNR of in2on-body communication
SNR of on-body communication
SNR of off-body communication
Total symbol duration time
Table I: Description of terms and symbols used throughout this paper.

Iii E2E bit error performance

To derive the closed-form E2E-BER, each type of communication described in the previous section is modeled and ultimately, E2E-BER is calculated by concatenating them.

Iii-a Molecular communication channel model and BER

Without loss of generality, it is assumed that nodes , , and are placed in one line and the drift velocity is in the direction of a line connecting the nodes through the blood vessel. Therefore, the MC propagation is modeled by one dimensional Brownian motion with drift. Moreover, in an environment with positive drift, the molecules are assumed to follow 1D Brownian motion with drift whose analysis does not change in a 2D or 3D environment, when the environment is isotropic [17]. Furthermore, the closed-form expression for the probability of the first hitting to the receiver in a 3D environment with drift is currently intractable [18]. Consequently, according to the direction of the drift velocity and the location of the nodes, we employ the 1D propagation model. It is assumed that the flow of the MC medium neither split to nor concatenated with any other vessel’s blood flow. Otherwise, the drift of the nanomachines must be modeled precisely based on the splitting and merging scenario, which is out of the scope of this paper. Note that the propagation process is governed by both diffusion and drift due to the external active mobility. For the one dimensional Brownian motion with positive drift velocity, time at which a released molecule of type

hits the receiver for the first time, i.e., the absorption time, follows the probability density function (pdf) given by  

[19, 17]


where is the diffusion coefficient of molecule of type in the medium, is the distance between the transmitter and the receiver, is the medium velocity, and exp(

) is the exponential function. The cumulative distribution function (CDF) of the absorption time, which is interpreted as the probability of hitting the receiver for a given molecule within time

, is given by [17]



is the standard CDF of Gaussian distribution.

Node detects the type molecules that are transmitted by node . In the receiver of node

, maximum-a-posterior probability (MAP) rule is employed for detection of the transmitted molecule

[14]. The information bit detected by node , denoted by , is given by


where is the total number of molecules absorbed by node in the source transmission time interval, i.e., , and is the detection threshold at node . After decoding, node re-encodes and forwards it to node in the relay transmission time interval, i.e., . The information bit detected by node is denoted by .

follows the normal distribution as



where is the normal distribution, and are mean values and and are variance values which are derived as follows 333In this paper, the intersymbol interference is ignored. The analysis of this interference is out of the scope and is relegated as future works. [14]:


where in which . is symbol duration in DMC, and is the distance between nodes T and D. The value of can be calculated as [14]


By using the MAP detection rule in (3), the conditional probabilities in (10) can be written as [20]


where is the error function and . In this model, the communication occurs with no error if holds. Consequently, the error probability for the th bit is calculated as


By exploiting the chain rule, the first term on the right side of (12) can be obtained as follows


A similar approach can be employed to extend the second term of (12). Finally, after some manipulations, the error probability in (12) can be written as


where denotes the detection threshold at node .

Iii-B In2on body communication channel model and BER

Our goal in this subsection is to model the statistical BER of the in2on-body channel. The SNR of the link between the nanomachine and the wearable device can be expressed as

Figure 4: Bit error probability performance of the DMC system as a function of the detection threshold at receiver () for different values of drift velocity () and number of molecules ().

where is the path loss in dB at a reference distance , is the transmission power of the nanomachine, is the symbol duration of in2on body channel, is the path loss exponent, is the distance between nanomachine and the wearable device, is the power spectral density of the zero mean complex additive white Gaussian noise, and

is a normally distributed random variable that models shadowing effect

[21, 16].

By considering Binary Phase-Shift Keying (BPSK) modulation, the BER of the instantaneous SNR (denoted by ) is given by


where erfc() is the complementary error function. The Average BER (ABER) is derived by averaging over which is given by


Considering the fact that the SNR is log-normally distributed, the ABER in (18) does not have the analytical closed-form solution

[16]. Therefore, the complementary error function is approximated as follows [22]:


Therefore, the ABER for the log-normal model, using the approximation in (19), is expressed as

Figure 5: Bit error probability performance of the DMC system as a function of the detection threshold at receiver () for different values of molecular symbol duration ().

where , and is the Frustration function defined by  [23]


Iii-C On-body communication channel model and BER

The path loss of the link between the wearable device and the gateway is a function of the distance, the part of the body that the wearable device is located, and the motion of the human body [16]. The best fitting distribution for these scenarios has been found to be the log-normal distribution [21]. The closed-form of BER for the case that SNR is log-normally distributed with mean , and scale parameter , can be obtained in similar to (20). For the case that SNR is log-normally distributed with mean , and scale parameter , the BER can be solved in the closed-form similar to (20). However, in this scenario, we have , and , where and are the transmit power of the wearable device, and the symbol duration time of on-body channel, respectively.

Figure 6: Bit error probability performance of the DMC system as a function of the detection threshold () for number of molecular ().

Iii-D Off-body communication channel model and BER

Rayleigh fading channel with additive white Gaussian noise is assumed for off-body communication link. Thus, average BER of BPSK is given by [24]


where is SNR per bit. , , , and are transmit power of the gate-way device, symbol duration of off-body channel, the distance between the gate-way and the access point and the path loss exponent, respectively.

Iii-E E2E communication channel model and BER

In order to compute the E2E-BER, we use the fact that BERs of the above-mentioned communication links are independent, due to their independent physical mediums. Therefore, the total bit error probability of E2E system can be written as


where is the total bit error probability and and are the bit error probability and bit correct probability of link , respectively. In addition, .

Figure 7: Bit error probability performance of the E2E communication system as a function of molecular symbol duration in three regimes. (a) Regime I: molecular communication is dominant (), (b) Regime II: electromagnetic communication is dominant () and (c) Regime III: There is a trade off between molecular and electromagnetic communications ().

Iv Symbol duration optimization problem

Here, we consider the symbol duration of molecular and wireless communications as dependent variables. We assume that the time duration of each slot for E2E communication is predetermined and set to which implies the following equation holds:


where indicates symbol duration of the entire wireless communications including on-body, in2on-body, and off-body communication.

Next, we formulate an optimization algorithm for finding the optimum time slot partitioning to achieve the best performance in E2E communication. The objective is to minimize the E2E BER of the system. Therefore, the problem is formulated as

Figure 8: Performance of the proposed algorithm to find the optimal symbol duration time.
      Set lower-bound= 0, upper-bound= 1 and
Step 1: h= (Lower-bound + upper-bound)/2.
Step 2: Solve the convex feasibility problem (27).
Step 3: If (27) is feasible, upper-bound= h; else lower-bound= h.
Step 4: If upper-bound - lower-bound , then stop. Otherwise, go back to Step 1.

We also assume is divided into three intervals of equal duration associated to in2on-body, on-body and off-body communication links. One should note that the objective function in (25) is not a convex function, and hence, the optimization problem is not convex. However, it could be shown that the objective function is quasiconvex (see Fig. 8), due to the fact that its domain and all its sublevel sets are convex [25, 14]. One method to solve the quasiconvex optimization problem relies on the representation of the sublevel sets of a quasiconvex function via a family of convex inequalities, as described in [25]. For solving the optimization problem (25), we utilized the bisection method, in which, the optimal symbol duration is computed by solving a convex feasibility problem at each step. According to [25], the h-sublevel set () of a function : is defined as


where is the set of real numbers. Consequently, the new optimization problem whose constraint is the h-sublevel set of the objective function in problem (25) can be written as

Find (27)

The proposed algorithm based on the bisection method for solving our problem is presented in Table II where is a positive small number.

The bisection optimization solution is a function of the DMC parameters and SNR of EC where SNR of the EC is estimated at the beginning of the transmission as a transmission routine procedure, and DMC parameters are pre-determined and fixed. Therefore, the bisection algorithm is run in the EC transmission side which does not have computational complexities. On the other hand, from the computational point of view, this method is a simple and robust root-finding mathematical algorithm which is of low complexity as investigated in


Variable values Variable values
[0.3, 0.6] mm/s D [14] 242.78 m/s
[14] 40 [14] 100
[3-6] ms [150-300]
1m [200, 225]
20 mm 1.3 m
9 ms [16] 63.24 dBm
[16] -0.39 [16] 0.23
Table III: Simulation setting.
Figure 9: Bit error probability performance of the E2E and DMC communication system as a function of the drift velocity .

V Numerical Results

In this section, we present the numerical results to evaluate the error probability performance of the proposed E2E communication system. We also show how the system parameters affect the performance. We consider isomer of hexoses as the messenger molecules in the blood vessels [27]. In molecular communication, we assume that node R is placed in the middle point between nodes T and D and it emits the same number of molecules that node T transmits, to relay the information444 Without loss of generality, no channel coding is considered for EC and DMC. If a particular channel coding is engaged, the probability of bit errors must be adjusted accordingly. It is also assumed that the released molecules of type A and type B have the same diffusion coefficient in the medium. The system parameters used in the analysis and simulations are given in Table III.

Figure 10: Bit error probability performance of the E2E and DMC communication system as a function of the detection threshold at the receiver ().

The impact of the drift velocity, symbol duration, and on molecular BER performance are plotted in Figs. 4, 5, and 6, respectively. We assume that all wireless transmitters communicate with the constant transmit power and only changes. We can write the electromagnetic bit error probability denoted by as follows:


where In E2E BER analysis, assume three regimes as follows:

Regime I: is dominant. In this case, in (23) is negligible compared to . Therefore, (23) can be written as = .

Regime II: is dominant. In this case, in (23) is negligible compared to . Therefore, (23) can be written as = .

Regime III: and are in the same range. For this scenario, there is a trade-off between BER in MC and EC and (23) holds.

We plot the E2E BER for all of three regimes in Fig. 7. Fig.7 shows regime I when the molecular communication is dominant. Fig. 7 illustrates regime II when the electromagnetic wireless communication is dominant. Fig. 7 illustrates regime III that we can see the impact of on molecular, on-body, in2on-body, and off-body BER. As can be seen in Fig. 7, for ms, molecular BER is dominant. However, for ms, wireless BER is dominant. It implies that the optimal point exists for choosing the appropriate and . The performance of the proposed algorithm is evaluated in Fig. 8 for the chosen parameters. As can be observed, by using the proposed algorithm based on the bisection method, the global optimal molecular symbol duration and wireless symbol duration can be reached.

The E2E BER is also a function of the drift velocity, , and the detection threshold at the receiver, , in MC. In Fig. 9, we study the effect of the drift velocity values on the performance of E2E communication system. We set ms. As can be seen, if the value of increases, the E2E BER decreases, especially when the molecular BER is dominant. Moreover, the E2E performance enhances with increasing the drift velocity, and hence, low error probabilities can be achieved. In fact, when velocity increases, the released molecules are absorbed by the receiver with higher probability. As the velocity tends to infinity, i.e., , in (2) approaches to 1 [19], and consequently, no error occurs in the system. Also, in Fig. 10, we study the effect of the value of the detection threshold at the receiver, , on the performance of E2E communication system. As we can see in Fig. 4, affects the molecular BER, and afterwards, affects E2E-BER non-linearly. When the molecular BER is dominant, we can reach to minimum E2E-BER by choosing an appropriate which should be considered as future work.

Vi Conclusion

In this paper, we investigated the E2E communication link consisting of the electromagnetic and molecular communication. First, we derived a closed-form expression for the E2E bit error probability of concatenation of molecular and wireless electromagnetic communications. Then, we formulated the optimization problem that aims at minimizing the E2E bit error probability of the system to determine the optimal symbol durations for both molecular and wireless electromagnetic communications. In addition, we studied the impact of the parameters consisting of the drift velocity and the detection threshold at the receiver in MC. The results reveal that an adaptive system must be considered to achieve the minimum bit error rate and optimal performance for the E2E system.


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