Forget Bluetooth: Human Body is Efficient Data Transmitter

Figuring out how to send data through the air was a big achievement for our time, but the next big advancement might be using our own bodies to transmit information. Researchers at Korea University in Seoul have developed a technique for transmitting electromagnetic waves through human arms at 10 megabits per second. It’s an experiment that’s been tried before, but previous tries have involved electrodes which would cause skin irritation after prolonged skin contact. The electrodes used by the Korea University researchers are extremely thin – about the thickness of three human hairs – made of a non-irritating silicon-coated metal, and able to be bent at a 90-degree angle at least 700,000 times.

Transmitting through the human body is approximately 90 percent more energy-efficient than transmitting wirelessly through Bluetooth. But before your mouth starts watering at the thought of ever-present wireless communications, the researchers point out that their intended application is for health monitoring. Currently, monitoring medical data like heart patterns and blood sugar remotely requires either lots of wires or lots of batteries. This technology could cut down on both and allow patients to go about their regular lives while still being monitored by their doctors. But there are also some deliciously geeky advances on the way: a different research team is working on intra-body networks that will let you unlock doors with a single touch.

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See more in Cybernetics or under Technology. March, 2010.