Magnetic Fields Through Our Bodies Could Replace Bluetooth

By James O Malley on at

Electrical engineers at the University of California have invented a new way to transmit data signals between devices... using our bodies. The researchers reckon that by using magnetic fields, data could be transmitted between wearable devices much more efficiently than over bluetooth.

At the moment tech is only at proof of concept stage so don't expect to see it announced on stage by Apple at the next iPhone launch just yet, but it does show some promise. The way it works is by the wearable device generating a magnetic field - in the demo they simply used magnetic field generating coils - which can then pass through human tissue. Helpfully, these fields can be tuned to transmit binary signals - so digital data can be sent.

The significant advantage over bluetooth is in terms of data loss. When data is transmitted wirelessly there's a certain amount of packet loss, but this new technique is apparently ten million times more efficient than bluetooth - which could mean devices which consume less power to transmit the same data. Which could be great news especially when wearables are more ubiquitous and are used for devices like pacemakers that are placed inside the body, where changing the batteries is, umm, difficult.

Better still, the new technique doesn't pose any major health risks: The magnetic fields are many times less powerful than the sorts used by MRI machines when they scan patients. It could conceivably offer greater security too - as bluetooth signals can theoretically be picked up by other devices close to the user, whereas to hack these magnetic fields, the hacker would literally have to be connected to your body.

The researchers just presented their findings at a conference in Italy - so don't be surprised if in a few years we start hearing more about this technology. [Geek]