Technology capable of sending digital information through Human Touch
Researchers have created the first technology that is capable of transmitting digital content, such as a picture or password, by touching the surface with your finger. A prototype created by Purdue University engineers would effectively allow your body to serve as a connection between your card or smartphone and the reader or scanner, making it possible for you to relay information only by touching the surface.
The prototype is said to be the first technology that can transmit information with a direct touch of a fingertip, enabling the user to serve as a conduit between a credit card or tablet and a reader or scanner. The project has not yet transmitted currency, but it’s the first technology that can transmit some information through the touch of a fingertip. When wearing a prototype as a watch, the body of the user can be used to transmit information, such as a picture or password, while touching a sensor on a laptop, the researchers will demonstrate in a new report.
A prototype created by Purdue University engineers would effectively allow your body to serve as a connection between your card or smartphone and the reader or scanner, making it possible for you to relay information only by touching the surface.
Although it’s not yet possible to move money, researchers said that when wearing a prototype as a watch, a user’s body can be used to transmit information, such as a picture or password, when touching a sensor on a laptop. “We’re used to unlocking devices using our fingerprints, but this technology wouldn’t rely on biometrics – it would rely on digital signals. Imagine logging into an app on someone else’s phone just by touch,” said Shreyas Sen, a Purdue associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.
“Whatever you touch would become more powerful because digital information is going through it.” The study is published in Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, a journal by the Association for Computing Machinery. Shovan Maity, a Purdue alum, led the study as a Ph.D. student in Sen’s lab.
The technology operates by providing an “internet” inside the body that smartphones, smartwatches, pacemakers, insulin pumps, and other wearable or implantable devices may use to transmit details. Usually, these systems interact using Bluetooth signals that appear to radiate out of the body. The hacker could intercept the signals from 30 feet away, Sen said.
Instead, Sen’s system retains signals inside the body by linking them to the so-called “Electro-Quasistatic range” that is much lower in the electromagnetic spectrum than traditional Bluetooth connectivity. This system facilitates the flow of information only when contacting the floor.
It explains how the technology operates by creating an ‘internet’ inside the body where smartphones, smartwatches, pacemakers, insulin pumps, and other wearable or implantable devices could provide details. And if the finger were just one centimeter above the surface, the information would not be transmitted without direct contact with this technology. This will deter a hacker from accessing private information such as credit card numbers, by intercepting signals.
The researchers demonstrated this functionality in the laboratory by making a human communicate with two neighboring surfaces. Every surface was fitted with a contact electrode, a receiver to capture data from the finger, and a light to show that the data had been transferred. When the finger touched the electrode directly, just the light of the surface turned on.
Similarly, if a finger hovered as close as possible to a notebook sensor, a snapshot will not be moved. But direct contact will be able to move a photo. According to the team, information cannot be transmitted via this technology without direct contact, even though a digit hovered a centimeter over the floor, stopping hackers from intercepting signals to steal private information.
Credit card machines and applications such as Apple Pay use a more reliable alternative to Bluetooth signals – called near-field contact – to collect payment by pressing a card or scanning a computer. The technologies of Sen would introduce the ease of making a safe payment with a single gesture.
“You wouldn’t have to bring a device out of your pocket. You could leave it in your pocket or on your body and just touch,” Sen said.
The technology may also substitute key fobs or cards that are currently using Bluetooth connectivity to provide access to the house. Instead, a person could just contact a door handle to get in. Like computers today that scan vouchers, gift cards, and other phone records, using this technology in real life will need surfaces anywhere to have the correct hardware to recognize your finger.
The computer program that a human wears will therefore need to be programmed to transmit signals across the body to the fingertip – and have a way to turn it off so that information, such as payment, cannot be transmitted to any surface prepared to accept it. Researchers believe that the uses of this technology will go beyond how we communicate with computers today.