Human arm turned into broadband channel

Data and energy can now be transmitted through the human body - with major implications for medical apps to monitor patients' vital signs remotely

Korean researchers have demonstrated how a human arm is capable of transmitting a broadband data signal.

Researchers at Korea University in Seoul managed to transmit data at a rate of 10 megabits per second through a subject's arm via low-frequency electromagnetic waves, between two electrodes on the skin spaced at 30 centimetres apart.

There could be major health benefits if the technology is able to be developed for widespread use, in terms of monitoring a patients vital signs - such as blood sugar levels or heart activity – while they go about their daily lives.

"If we use wireless for each of these vital signs we would need many batteries," study co-author Sang-Hoon Lee of Korea University, while noting that a network transmitting through the skin would cut power requirements by around 90 per cent.

Health-monitoring networks

The Korean team is currently working with an unnamed electronics manufacturer to develop health-monitoring networks using the new electrode technology they have developed.

Computer engineer John Lach, from the University of Virginia, told New Scientist: "You would need to attach some type of receiver to connect an intra-body network to a cellphone, whereas most cellphones are already Bluetooth enabled."

But as far as medical applications go, Lach thinks that using the body as a conduit for energy means "more energy-efficient communication systems because wireless transmission is such a big power hog."

Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering via New Scientist