by Queen's University Belfast
28 October 2010
Members of the public could form the backbone of powerful new mobile
internet networks by carrying wearable sensors.
According to researchers from Queen's University Belfast, the novel sensors
could create new ultra high bandwidth mobile internet infrastructures and
reduce the density of mobile phone base stations.
The engineers from Queen's renowned Institute of Electronics, Communications
and Information Technology (ECIT), are working on a new project based on the
rapidly developing science of body centric communications.
Social benefits from the work could include vast improvements in mobile
gaming and remote healthcare, along with new precision monitoring of
athletes and real-time tactical training in team sports.
The researchers at ECIT are investigating how small sensors carried by
members of the public, in items such as next generation smart-phones, could
communicate with each other to create potentially vast body-to-body networks
The new sensors would interact to transmit data, providing 'anytime,
anywhere' mobile network connectivity.
Dr Simon Cotton, from ECIT's wireless communications research group said:
"In the past few years a significant amount of research has been undertaken
into antennas and systems designed to share information across the surface
of the human body. Until now, however, little work has been done to address
the next major challenge which is one of the last frontiers in wireless
communication – how that information can be transferred efficiently to an
"The availability of body-to-body networks could bring great social
benefits, including significant healthcare improvements through the use of
bodyworn sensors for the widespread, routine monitoring and treatment of
illness away from medical centers. This could greatly reduce the current
strain on health budgets and help make the Government's vision of healthcare
at home for the elderly a reality.
"If the idea takes off, BBNs could also lead to a reduction in the number of
base stations needed to service mobile phone users, particularly in areas of
high population density. This could help to alleviate public perceptions of
adverse health associated with current networks and be more environmentally
friendly due to the much lower power levels required for operation."
Dr Cotton has been awarded a prestigious joint five-year Research Fellowship
by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Engineering and Physical
Research Council (EPSRC) to examine how the new technology can be harnessed
to become part of everyday life.
"Our work at Queen's involves collaborating with national and
international academic, industrial and institutional experts to develop a
range of models for wireless channels required for body centric
These will provide a basis for the development of the
antennas, wireless devices and networking standards required to make BBNs a
"Success in this field will not only bring major social benefits it could
also bring significant commercial rewards for those involved. Even though
the market for wearable wireless sensors is still in its infancy, it is
expected to grow to more than 400 million devices annually by 2014."