Sun, Mar 20, 2005 - Page 12 News List

New technology uses human body for broadband networking

By sending data over the surface of the skin, it may soon be possible to trade music files by dancing cheek to cheek, or to swap phone numbers by kissing

By Paul Rubens  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Zimmerman also believes that, unlike infrared or Bluetooth phones and PDAs, which enable people to "beam" electronic business cards across a room without ever formally meeting, body-based networking allows for more natural interchanges of information between humans.

"If you are very close or touching someone, you are either in a busy subway train, or you are being intimate with them, or you want to communicate," he says. "I think it is good to be close to someone when you are exchanging information."

RedTacton transceivers can be treated as standard network devices, so software running over Ethernet or other TCP/IP protocol-based networks will run unmodified.

Gordon Bell, a senior researcher at Microsoft's Bay Area Research Center in San Francisco, says that while Bluetooth or other radio technologies may be perfectly suitable to link gadgets for many personal area networking purposes, there are certain applications for which RedTacton technology would be ideal.

"I recently acquired my own in-body device -- a pacemaker -- but it takes a special radio frequency connector to interface to it. As more and more implants go into bodies, the need for a good Internet Protocol connection increases," he says.

In the near future, the most important application for body-based networking may well be for communications within, rather than on the surface of, or outside, the body.

An intriguing possibility is that the technology will be used as a sort of secondary nervous system to link large numbers of tiny implanted components placed beneath the skin to create powerful onboard -- or in-body -- computers.

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