Alps ready for low-power human skin networks

Data to flow across fingertips to start cars, open doors and more

When we reported last spring on NTT's Firmo technology that uses the human body as a data conduit, we hardly expected a competitor before the year was out, but here it is.

Japan's Alps Electric (what is it with these super-brain Japanese inventors anyway?) says it has come up with a single chip that can handle the same functionality in a tiny package.

Low power drain

The Human Area Networking device combines a CPU with signalling and sensory circuitry in one chip that's much smaller that anything that has gone before at just 12 x 15 x 2mm.

Alps says the prototype uses only 0.5 per cent as much power as a Bluetooth radio and that the 40Kbit/s transfer rate is enough for applications such as providing the digital ID to start a car or open a door with just the touch of a finger.

With mass production due to start some time next year, we could be looking at a very touchy-feely future before long.