Human networks could boost mobile broadband

Mobile network

Mobile broadband networks could be boosted by attaching wearable sensors to humans, researchers have suggested.

Together, human nodes could create body-to-body networks (BBNs), forming ultra-high bandwidth mobile internet infrastructures, according to the boffins at Queen's University Belfast.

This could help cut lags caused by cluttered base stations, engineers from the university's Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) said.

Now the researchers are looking at how such sensors could be carried by members of the public, possibly in future smartphones, and how they might communicate with one another.

"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," explained Dr Simon Cotton, from ECIT's wireless communications research group.

"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 off-body location."

The engineers claimed numerous ancillary benefits could be achieved through BBNs, including improved mobile gaming and remote healthcare.

Athletes could also benefit from more precise monitoring, while football teams could get real-time tactical training, the researchers suggested.

"Success in this field will not only bring major social benefits it could also bring significant commercial rewards for those involved," Cotton added.

"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."

Queen's University has a strong history in IT. One of the prizes for this year's Cyber Security Challenge UK is a 3,300 grant towards an MSc Electronics and Security course at Queen's.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.