< My LiveWave Blog: Microsoft Gets Patent for Transmitting Power and Data Over the Human Body

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Microsoft Gets Patent for Transmitting Power and Data Over the Human Body

Microsoft patents a method to transmit data and power over the human body


Microsoft was granted patent 6,754,472 for "Method and apparatus for transmitting power and data using the human body." Who needs Bluetooth when you've got a body, eh? The abstract reads thus:

The human body is used as a conductive medium, e.g., a bus, over which power and/or data is distributed. Power is distributed by coupling a power source to the human body via a first set of electrodes. One or more devise [sic] to be powered, e.g., peripheral devices, are also coupled to the human body via additional sets of electrodes. The devices may be, e.g., a speaker, display, watch, keyboard, etc. A pulsed DC signal or AC signal may be used as the power source. By using multiple power supply signals of differing frequencies, different devices can be selectively powered. Digital data and/or other information signals, e.g., audio signals, can be modulated on the power signal using frequency and/or amplitude modulation techniques.

Clearly the idea is to turn the body into a medium for personal gadgets and the like, but the patent itself is rather vague. What makes this idea different from the wireless networking options in play right now is the power issue. As it stands, a well-armed geek might have at least three batteries on his person at any given time: cellphone, PDA, and a watch, for example. If power and data can be transmitted by the body, it may eliminate he redundancy of such power supplies, while also eliminating duplication of other device functions (do you need a speaker on every device you have, or just a centrally located one?). Or, at the very least, trickle-charging devices from a battery located on the body (or in a pocket) may make the use of multiple devices that require charging more convenient. It is unclear as to whether or not Microsoft has working prototypes beyond basic tests or if this patent is largely vapor at this stage. It certainly sounds intriguing.

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