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Robots & Machines

Now You Can Use Your Head (and the Rest of Your Body) to Securely Transfer Data

All you need for more data security is your body.

Putting the “bio” in “biometrics”

Security and privacy issues accompany any new developments in data transfer over wireless networks or systems. Recognizing this, researchers from the University of Washington developed a way to send wireless signals between a person’s hands, and they’re calling it on-body transmission.

According to the study by Vikram Iyer, Mehrdad Hessar, and computer science and engineering assistant professor Shyam Gollakota, to utilize this new method of data transfer, the user must have one hand on a screen or a touchpad, while the other hand touches a smart device — a door to their house or car, for instance. The device’s fingerprint sensor or touchpad generates a low-frequency electromagnetic transmission that can then travel through the user’s body to the smart device they are touching with their other hand.

Through this new method, data is still transferred wirelessly, but via a more confined and secure manner. The study reports sending data at rates of 50 bps on laptop touchpads and 25 bps with fingerprint sensors, which is fast enough to send passwords within a few seconds. Eventually, the technology could be used to transfer information to wearables or to coordinate a network of body sensors.

How on-body transmisison works. Credits: Vikram Iyer, University of Washington
How on-body transmission works. Credits: Vikram Iyer, University of Washington

Data’s new buddy

The quest for more secure means of transferring and storing data has led to a solution that’s been right under our noses the whole time — the human body. It’s data’s new buddy when it comes to security, and while older biometric models have been around for quite some time now, newer developments allow for even greater privacy and security.

On-body transmission is a secure method of using the human body as a conduit that doesn’t rely on the body’s magnetic field, like some other Bluetooth alternatives that use the body. It’s a promising addition to the ever-growing field of technology that utilizes biology for data transfer or data collection, and even more new tech (like Microsoft’s DNA storage technology) is in the works.

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