Human magnetic field offers communication hope

Human magnetic field demoResearchers at the University of California San Diego believe they have hit on a method using the human body to allow communication between different wearable devices.

The electrical engineers showed off a wireless communication method that sends magnetic signals through the body which offers a better method of communicating than, for example, Bluetooth.

A demonstration at a conference in Italy showed a “proof of concept” method that they believe could be developed into an ultra low power wireless system to transmit data.

Patrick Mercier, a professor at the university, said: “In the future, people are going to be wearing more electronics, such as smart watches, fitness trackers and health monitors. Currently these devices transmit information using Bluetooth radios, which use a lot of power to communicate.”

He said that Bluetooth uses electromagnetic radiation to transmit data but radio signals are partly blocked by the body and so need extra power.

The demonstration used a technique the boffins call magnetic field human body communication, which isn’t blocked by human tissues meaning that less power consumption is needed and data loss is far, far lower than Bluetooth.

If the method is successfully turned from proof of concept to commercial reality, it means longer battery life for wearable devices.

The engineers were quick to point out the technique doesn’t pose any serious health risks because the signals are far lower than MRI scanners, for example, or wireless implant devices.

The illustration shows the prototype developed by the engineers with magnetic field generating coils on three parts of a body including the head, an arm and a leg.