Humans could be used to provide high speed mobile wireless internet through the use of wearable sensors, according to scientists at Queen’s University.
Ultra-high bandwidth mobile internet infrastructures based on the "rapidly developing science of body centric communications" could provide a wide variety of benefits.
Researchers at the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) have been developing small sensors which could be carried in the next generation of smartphones by members of the public, potentially creating massive body to body networks (BBNs).
Though the technology is in its infancy it is "expected to grow to more than 400 million devices annually by 2014," according to Dr Simon Cotton of ECIT’s wireless communications research group.
The wireless sensors would interact, transmitting data to provide "anytime, anywhere mobile network connectivity."
"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," said Dr Cotton. "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."
There are many potential benefits from the technology including improvements to mobile gaming, real-time tactical training in team sports and precision monitoring of individual athletes. Furthermore there are potentially massive implications for the health service.
Dr Cotton added: "The availability of body-to-body networks could bring great social benefits, including significant healthcare improvements through the use of body-worn sensors for the widespread, routine monitoring and treatment of illness away from medical centres.
"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."
The sensors would render base stations needed for mobile access unnecessary, meaning areas with high population density would no longer need them - which is better for the environment as less power would be consumed.
"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."