A new wireless communication technique uses human body to transmit magnetic signals

San Diego researchers have developed a prototype of their new wireless communication technique that can transmit data through biological tissue outperforming the existing wireless technology.

Electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego, US have demonstrated a new technique “magnetic field human body communication” that outperforms the outstanding technology of Bluetooth which seems to be omnipresent these days,

The wearable technology of present times, such as smart watches, fitness trackers, audio headsets, earphones to name a few, is wireless and uses the technology of Bluetooth for communication.

However, San Diego researchers claim that their new technique can outperform the existing wireless technology and it uses human body to send the data between the devices.

A prototype based on the new technique has been developed by the researchers to demonstrate their exceptionally efficient technology. This prototype comprises of coiled insulated copper wires, which generates the magnetic field, that are wound around the areas of user’s body.

Magnetic field human body communication:

In this new wireless communication technique, a human body acts as a medium for delivering the magnetic energy between the wearable devices which allows free passage of the signals through biological tissue.

According to the researchers, this new wireless communication technology would give best results in case the wearable device is in the form of coils or it is circular in nature. This indicates that the technology is mostly suitable for wearable electronic devices such as fitness brands, smart watches, belts, headbands etc. which are in the form of coil as this helps the technology in better functioning and propagation of the magnetic fields through the biological tissues.

The prototype sends signals between body parts by coiling magnetic field-generating insulated copper wires around three areas of the user’s body.

How does the new technology outperform the existing wireless technology?

More Power efficient in comparison to Bluetooth technology: 

Bluetooth devices which are present in the wearable electronic gadgets uses radio signals for data transmission. In fact, radio signals are in the form of electromagnetic radiations which gets blocked by human body or biological tissue thus resulting in ‘path loss’ of the data. Now, the only remedy to make up for this loss is to boost the power of the wearable electronic device so as to push the radio signals.

Ultimately, we can see that Bluetooth devices are not very power efficient. In addition, these wearable gadgets are much smaller and lighter in weight indicating they have smaller batteries and to get the optimum result the wearable device would need additional battery making it bulgier.

On the contrary, researchers say that by using the new wireless technology it is possible to send data via magnetic fields directly through human body thus enormously cutting down on the ‘path loss’. Researchers claim that path loss occurring in ‘magnetic field human body communication’ is much less when compared to that of Bluetooth technology.

It seems the new technology is 10 million times efficient in controlling the path loss when compared to the existing wireless technology indicating that the overall power consumption would also reduce tremendously.

Patrick Mercier, lead author of the study said in a statement: “This technique, to our knowledge, achieves the lowest path losses out of any wireless human body communication system that’s been demonstrated so far. This technique will allow us to build much lower power wearable devices.”

Jiwoong Park, first author of the study and a Ph.D student at the UCSD says: “A problem with wearable devices like smart watches is that they have short operating times because they are limited to using small batteries. With this magnetic field human body communication system, we hope to significantly reduce power consumption as well as how frequently users need to recharge their devices.”

Magnetic energy passing through biological tissue is harmless.

Well, some people may have doubts if it is alright to send magnetic energy through human body.

Researchers believe that wearable devices would use ultra low power when they incorporate the new technology, which in turn would transmit signals of lesser power thus enabling smooth and harmless passage of the magnetic fields through human body. According to researchers the signals would be of much less power when compared to MRI scanners and wireless implant devices.

The new wireless communication technique is much secured.

Researchers believe their technology could be much more secure in comparison to the Bluetooth technology; this technology transmits data in a much wider radius, over several meters and thus is open to potential eavesdropping. Primarily the signals transmitted in magnetic field human body communication would be limited only till that person’s body ensuring there will not be any sort of radiation nor transmission from one body to another and hence it would prevent any sort of eavesdropping.


The ‘magnetic field human body communication’ cannot be used to send data from wearable devices to any remote gadgets, in other words a person cannot communicate or transmit data to another computer. Researchers feel that this limitation might prove to be quite beneficial to some users.

Park, says: “Increased privacy is desirable when you’re using your wearable devices to transmit information about your health.”

Researchers recently presented the details of their study at the 37th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biological Society, in Milan, Italy.