Imagine you are holding a smartphone in one hand and can transmit information, images or codes through your body to a screen in front of you, a printer, or an electronic lock – simply by touching that object. It’s already possible – through a technology known as capacitive coupling and a concept we call Connected Me.
Jan Hederén, Strategy Manager, Development Unit Radio Access, Ericsson, says communicating through touch is one of the most effective ways that humans connect to one another, especially with the rapid penetration of smartphones and tablets. "We use our hands constantly to turn things on and off, to open and close objects; basically, to carry out all our daily activities," he says.
"By being able to transmit and receive digital signals using the body’s natural properties, everyday activities become simpler. And because of mobile broadband, the fundamental enabler of this touch-based interaction, we can use this technology everywhere, in any situation."
Connected Me, which uses the body as a wire, has the potential to change human behavior by making interaction with the internet and other digital services simpler. By holding a mobile phone in one hand and touching a device with the other hand, we have demonstrated that you can send and receive information at speeds of 6-10Mbps. Studies show that it may be possible to increase these speeds even more in the future.
But it’s not only about making processes more convenient; by redefining the way we use touch, we also create a more secure and personal connection. For example, consider the electronic lockers you can find at train stations or gyms. By simply having a passcode in your smartphone, you can put your hand on the locker and the code will be sent. With the correct code, you will be able to open the locker – just by touching it.
"When we transfer this data, we send a signal through the human body called capacitance, which is the ability of a body to store an electrical charge," Hederén says. "When we increase this small voltage, that voltage then circulates inside the body and can be captured, allowing it to move from one hand to the other. A really simple way of explaining it is if you imagine that the body has become a replacement for a USB or Bluetooth connection."
Hederén says that by the year 2020, we will be living in a Networked Society with more than 50 billion connected devices, so super-simple connectivity will be extremely important. Capacitive coupling and Connected Me are making it possible to interact more naturally with connected devices by combining everyday behaviors with digital communication.