Human 'BodyNets' as backbone for new mobile networks

Researchers from Queen's University Belfast are working on wearable sensors that can make people the backbone of powerful new mobile internet networks.

Body Area Networks (BANs) or BodyNets are sensor networks that are deployed within and around the human body for diverse applications, such as physiological monitoring and human computer interactions.

Now, researchers from Queen's University Belfast say that such wearable sensors can be taken a step further to form powerful new mobile internet networks that enable "anytime, anywhere" data connectivity.

Engineers at Queen's Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) are working on a project that uses the latest advances in body-centric communications to create new ultra high bandwidth mobile internet infrastructures and reduce the density of mobile phone base stations.

They're investigating how small sensors carried by members of the public, in items such as next generation smartphones, could communicate with each other to create potentially vast body-to-body networks (BBNs).

"In the past few years a significant amount of research has been undertaken into antennas and systems designed to share information across the surface of the human body. Until now, however, little work has been done to address the next major challenge which is one of the last frontiers in wireless communication – how that information can be transferred efficiently to an off-body location," says ECIT's Dr. Simon Cotton.

According to a university release, the social benefits from the work include improvements in mobile gaming and remote healthcare, along with new precision monitoring of athletes and real-time tactical training in team sports.

"If the idea takes off, BBNs could also lead to a reduction in the number of base stations needed to service mobile phone users, particularly in areas of high population density. This could help to alleviate public perceptions of adverse health associated with current networks and be more environmentally friendly due to the much lower power levels required for operation," says Cotton.

Queen's is collaborating with other academic institutions and industry experts to develop a range of models for wireless channels required for body area communications that will eventually lead to the development of the antennas, wireless devices and networking standards required to make BBNs a reality.

Cotton adds: "Success in this field will not only bring major social benefits it could also bring significant commercial rewards for those involved. Even though the market for wearable wireless sensors is still in its infancy, it is expected to grow to more than 400 million devices annually by 2014."

Related reading:

7 things you should know about Body Area Networks (BANs)

Body networks ask what is the frequency

'Skinput' turns the body into an input surface

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