Magnetic Fields Provide a New Way to Communicate Wirelessly
In a first, a team of electrical engineers has demonstrated a new wireless communication technique that works by sending magnetic signals through the human body.
The new technology could offer a low-power and more secure way to communicate information between wearable electronic devices, providing an improved alternative to existing wireless communication systems.
Based on positive results, the researchers from University of California-San Diego are now planning to develop an ultra-low power wireless system that can easily transmit information around the human body.
An application of this technology would be a wireless sensor network for full-body health monitoring.
In the future, people are going to be wearing more electronics such as smart watches, fitness trackers and health monitors.
All of these devices will need to communicate information with each other.
“Currently, these devices transmit information using Bluetooth radios which use a lot of power to communicate. We are trying to find new ways to communicate information around the human body that use much less power,” explained Patrick Mercier, professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering.
Bluetooth technology uses electromagnetic radiation to transmit data but these radio signals do not easily pass through the human body and, therefore, require a power boost to help overcome this signal obstruction or “path loss”.
Electrical engineers demonstrated a technique called magnetic field human body communication which uses the body as a vehicle to deliver magnetic energy between electronic devices.
An advantage of this system is that magnetic fields are able to pass freely through biological tissues, so signals are communicated with much lower path losses and potentially, much lower power consumption.
Researchers showed that the “path losses” associated with magnetic field human body communication are upwards of 10 million times lower than those associated with Bluetooth radios.
“This technique achieves the lowest ‘path losses’ out of any wireless human body communication system that’s been demonstrated so far. This technique will allow us to build much lower power wearable devices,” Mercier commented.
Lower power consumption also leads to longer battery life.
The researchers also pointed out that this technique does not pose any serious health risks.
Another potential advantage of magnetic field human body communication is that it could offer more security than Bluetooth networks.
“Increased privacy is desirable when you are using your wearable devices to transmit information about your health,” the authors noted.
The findings were presented at the annual international conference of the “IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society” in Milan, Italy, recently.