Intra-body communication (IBC) is a wireless communications technology that uses a person’s body as the transmission medium for imperceptible electrical signals. Intra-body communication also allows data to be transferred when a person touches an IBC-enabled device. In order to know more details about this technology, take a look at the Zimmerman’s thesis.
The IBC study has started in the early 1990. Since then, numerous studies have been published, nevertheless this technology has not won mass adoption, maybe because it is not mature enough yet.
Most persons have behavioral patterns. For example, I usually wake up then take a shower, eat breakfast, brush my teeth, and then grab my stuff and leave to the office (of course, in this example I am being very brief). I can think of many services using IBC technology; one of them is behavior awareness, in other words, a service that tracks a user’s behavior to support him.
In order to track a user behavior at home it is necessary to have an IBC-enabled device in contact with the skin, for example his watch, and some key objects also IBC compliant. To track my morning behavioral pattern I should have in my house the fridge, the shower, my cell phone, my toothbrush, the stove, my room’s door, the house’s main door, and maybe some few more IBC compliant devices. When I touch those devices I would be enabling a communication channel between them and the watch. The watch could be designed to store data (what and when I touch) provided by my interaction with the objects. From time to time the watch could update the main computer in the home with the stored information (many other solutions also could be used). This computer would be responsible to work on the raw data and transform them into useful information, for example, identifying my morning behavioral pattern.
Adapting objects to be IBC compliant is not science fiction, actually here in Telecom Italia there are some trials going on. Those IBC compliant devices must have the technology (which could be embedded in some sort of tag), to transmit and receive information when in connection with other IBC compliant device. The idea is to use the human body as the connection link.
Once we have identified the user behavioral pattern it is possible to offer several services. Consider an elderly who lives by himself. Elderly may need some extra care, since they are more susceptible to fall, or have some health problems. If it is identified a very different behavioral pattern of the monitored person he might need help, in this case a computer in the house could call for help. The same idea could be applied to help any kind of people that need extra care.
I believe that intra-body communication is a technology with a great potential; I hope to see cool services becoming widespread soon.