Technology Makes Human Body a Secure Communications Channel

April 15, 2013
BodyCom technology can make the human body a secure, low-power method for short-range wireless communication, eliminating the need for costly RF antennae and batteries for low-data-rate applications, according to developer Microchip Technology Inc.

Microchip Technology—the Arizona-based company that makes microcontrollers, mixed-signal, analog and Flash-IP products—said its BodyCom technology gives designers the world’s first framework for communication that can be activated by capacitive coupling to a human body.  

Security is enabled through bidirectional authentication that supports advanced encryption, such as KeeLoq technology and AES. It also prevents the “relay attack” problem that is common to automotive passive-keyless-entry security systems.

Microchip claims the technology can be applied to a wide range of wireless applications, including access control for industrial and home door locks and security systems, power tools, firearms and computer systems; medical applications such as patient monitoring, hospital room access and equipment tracking; and profile management for gaming consoles and exercise equipment.

“BodyCom technology provides a more secure, low-cost and easy method for implementing short-range, low-data-rate wireless communication with the lowest power consumption,” said Steve Drehobl, vice president of Microchip’s MCU8 division.

No wireless transceiver needed

Most secure short-range communication designs are battery-powered and highly cost-constrained. BodyCom technology eliminates the need for a wireless transceiver or high-power inductive field. It simplifies circuit design and lowers material cost by making antenna design unnecessary. It also uses a low-frequency framework with a common microcontroller and standard AFE frequencies (125 kHz and 8 MHz), so no external crystals are needed.

The technology complies with FCC Part 15-B for radiated emissions, eliminating the cost and complexity of certification.

The free technology can be accessed through the BodyCom Development V1.0 Framework (microchip.com) and comes with a communication library, application code examples and a development GUI for use on personal computers.

The technology works on all of Microchip’s more than 1000 8-, 16- and 32-bit PIC microcontrollers. Also available is a kit ($149) that includes a central controller unit and two wireless mobile units.

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