Researchers at Queen's University of Belfast (QUB) are working on what could be the most sci-fi approach yet to improving the UK's mobile phone coverage - using human beings as network nodes.
Academics at QUB's Institute of Electronics, Communications and
Information Technology (ECIT) said they believe using mobile sensors carried on the human body could form the backbone of new mobile internet networks.
However, this doesn't mean putting a chip in your frontal lobe. Instead it would more likely mean that sensors were carried inside other devices, such as the next-generation of smartphones, which would then communicate with one another.
This would create a body-to-body network (BBN) that would allow phones to boost coverage by sending information between themselves before reaching a base station.
This would also mean that at large events, where coverage is currently decimated due to so many devices trying to connect to the network, it would actually be augmented.
Dr Simon Cotton, from ECIT, explained to V3.co.uk that he envisions the sensors either being worn on the body, carried on smartphones or even integrated into clothing, and would bring improvements in a number of areas.
"It will provide a number of key benefits compared to cellular networks alone such as in disaster situations where cellular infrastructure has become damaged or is unavailable, body-to-body networks could help provide networking for relief workers and civilians," he explained.
"It promotes the concept of 'green spectrum' whereby we can re-use frequency allocations over much shorter distances, meaning that the precious resource of radio spectrum is utilised much more fully."
Cotton added that the technology would "most likely" be able to match LTE speeds as data transfers would only be limited by the availability of network paths that other enabled devices provide, meaning even large HD files could be transferred.
"Instead of burdening the cellular network the software intelligently splits the file into smaller streams and transmits the content to multiple nearby persons who then forward data to other humans acting as network nodes and so on," he said.
"The file is reassembled when reaching the intended user. Data rates here are really only limited by the number of discrete paths the data can find through the network."
Image: An example of how the body-to-body network would operate.
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