Ultra-wideband and other short-range wireless "personal area networks" such as Bluetooth are receiving a lot attention but a new technology "ElectAura-Net" may provide a viable alternative. According to the SIGGRAPH Innovative Technology article and an article Human Body Gets Fast in the MIT Technology Review, ElectAura-Net uses "a combination of the electric field that emanates from humans and a similar field emanating from special floor tiles" to provide 10 Mbps connectivity.
The MIT Technology Review article explained how the system works: "The researchers' transceiver transmits data by oscillating the electric field surrounding the device. When the electric field that naturally emanates from a person intersects the electric field of the nearest tile transceiver, oscillations in one field are transmitted to the other."
The technology was developed at NTT DoCoMo Multimedia Labs and NTT Microsystem Integration Labs. While it looks like simple capacitive coupling may be the method through which the data is transferred, the articles say the system can be used to provide accurate, reliable positioning information. According to the SIGGRAPH article, "In this system, a 'communication-cell' (carpet-size) can be shrunk down to one meter or less, and simultaneous access by many users can be realized. Ordinary intrabody communication systems cannot achieve long-distance communication between components such as body-worn devices and the floor. ElectAura-Net provides extra-high-sensitivity and high-speed capability."
Imagine this technology in a large convention such as NAB. You could step on the carpet in a booth and immediately have access to all the product data on your PDA without the need to align infrared beams, connect to a WiFi network or grab a CD.
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