Human society is entering an era of ubiquitous computing, when networks are seamlessly interconnected and information is always accessible at our fingertips. The practical implementation of ubiquitous services requires three levels of connectivity: Wide Area Networks (WAN), typically via the Internet, to remotely connect all types of severs and terminals; Local Area Networks (LAN), typically via Ethernet or WiFi connectivity among all the information and communication appliances in offices and homes; and Human Area Networks (HAN) for connectivity to personal information, media and communication appliances within the much smaller sphere of ordinary daily activities-- the last one meter. NTT's RedTacton is a break-through technology that, for the first time, enables reliable high-speed HAN. In the past, Bluetooth, infrared communications (IrDA), radio frequency ID systems (RFID), and other technologies have been proposed to solve the "last meter" connectivity problem. However, they each have various fundamental technical limitations that constrain their usage, such as the precipitous fall-off in transmission speed in multi-user environments producing network congestion.
RedTacton takes a different technical approach. Instead of relying on electromagnetic waves or light waves to carry data, RedTacton uses weak electric fields on the surface of the body (*4) as a transmission medium. A RedTacton transmitter couples with extremely weak electric fields on the surface of the body. The weak electric fields pass through the body to a RedTacton receiver, where the weak electric fields affects the optical properties of an electro-optic crystal. The extent to which the optical properties are changed is detected by laser light which is then converted to an electrical signal by a detector circuit. The three major functional features of RedTacton are highlighted below. (1) A communications path can be created with a simple touch, automatically initiating the flow of data between a body-centric electronic device and a computer that is embedded in the environment. For example, two people equipped with RedTacton devices could exchange data just by shaking hands. A wide range of natural human actions -- grasping, sitting down, walking, or standing in a particular place -- can be used to trigger RedTacton to start a networked process.
(2) Using a RedTacton electro-optic sensor, two-way communication is supported between any two points on the body at a throughput of up to 10 Mbps. Communication is not just confined to the surface of the body, but can travel through the user's clothing to a RedTacton device in a pocket or through shoes to communicate with a RedTacton device embedded in the floor. Unlike wireless technologies, the transmission speed does not deteriorate even in the presence of large crowds of people all communicating at the same time in meeting rooms, auditoriums or stores. Because the body surface is the transmission path, increasing the number of connected users directly increases the available number of individual communication channels .
(3) RedTacton can utilize a wide range of materials as a transmission medium, as long as the material is conductive and dielectric, which includes water and other liquids, various metals, certain plastics, glass, etc. Using ordinary structures such as tables and walls that are familiar and readily available, one could easily construct a seamless communication environment at very low cost using RedTacton . (Note that constraints are imposed by the length and environment of the propagating conductor, and by the thickness of the dielectric.)
RedTacton can achieve duplex communication over the human body at a maximum speed of 10 Mbps.
1. The RedTacton transmitter induces a weak
electric field on the surface of the body.
2. The electric field sensor (transistor or photonic
electric field sensor) detects electric field...