Researchers in Japan have found a way of using the human body as a computer network that runs at broadband speeds and lets computers exchange data by shaking hands.
Called RedTacton, the system uses the natural electrical field that a living body automatically generates. A device the size of a PC card generates electrical signals that can alter this field, which are then picked up by an electro-optic crystal and converted into data.
"Using a RedTacton electro-optic sensor, two-way communication is supported between any two points on the body at a throughput of up to 10Mbps," said Hideki Sakamoto from NTT's R&D strategy department.
"Communication is not just confined to the surface of the body, but can travel through the user's clothing to a device in a pocket or through shoes to communicate with a RedTacton device embedded in the floor.
"Because the body surface is the transmission path, increasing the number of connected users directly increases the available number of individual communication channels."
NTT claimed that the field changes generated are harmless since the minute displacement currents are the same as would occur in everyday life.
This method of transmission was first tried by IBM in the mid 1990s when it was dubbed Personal Area Networking, but it achieved transmission speeds nowhere near those of broadband.
The NTT lab could run into patent problems since IBM filed a patent last year for "a method and apparatus for transmitting power and data using the human body".
NTT wants to begin trials with third parties in April and stressed that all partners must bear their own costs.
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