The body area network

Cellcos looking for offload solutions to cope with mobile data traffic have been considering things like Wi-Fi hot spots and femtocells. In future, there may be another option – their own customers.
 
Researchers from the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) at Queen’s University Belfast say they’re working on wearable sensors that could create “ultra high bandwidth mobile internet infrastructures and reduce the density of mobile phone base stations.”
 
The idea builds on the concept of body-area networks (BANs), in which various wearable devices and sensors (for example, your handset, your MP3 player, your headphones) would be networked together wirelessly via Bluetooth.
 
But BANs are typically either self-contained, or connect to the mobile network via the handset. ENIT is proposing so-called “body-to-body networks” (BBNs) that essentially enable BANs to connect to each other as well as the mobile network – which essentially means each BBN could serve as a human base station. 
 
Maybe. The ENIT press release describing all this is vague on how this would actually work, and Dr Simon Cotton, from ECIT’s wireless communications research group, says body-to-body networks would be used initially to improve the ability of wearable sensors to serve healthcare apps like monitoring.
 
But he adds, “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.”
 
Either way, Dr Cotton has scored a joint five-year Research Fellowship by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Engineering and Physical Research Council (EPSRC) to develop the BBN concept. So watch this space in 2015.

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