Magnetic fields provide a new wireless communication technique

Electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego, have demonstrated a new wireless communication technique that works by sending magnetic signals through the human body.

They say the new technology could offer a lower power and more secure way to send information between wearable electronic devices.

They presented their findings late last month at the 37th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society in Milan, Italy.

Patrick Mercier, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC San Diego who led the study, said his team was looking to save energy when personal electronics such as smart watches, fitness trackers and health monitors communicate.

“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,” he said. 

“We’re trying to find new ways to communicate information around the human body that use much less power.”

He said that Bluetooth technology uses electromagnetic radiation to transmit data, however 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.”

While the team’s work was still a proof-of-concept demonstration, the technique, called magnetic field human body communication, uses the body as a vehicle to deliver magnetic energy between electronic devices.

“This technique, to our knowledge, 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,” said Mercier.

Bill Condie

Bill Condie

Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.

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