NTT's Firmo Body Network Touch Communication

NTT's Firmo is a data transfer system that uses the electrical field on the skin of the human body to move information. Firmo allows users to transmit or send data to an electronic device by touch alone. NTT has put Firmo on sale now.


(NTT Firmo body network data transfer)

Firmo uses a card-sized transmitter to transmit data via the weak electric field which extends across the human body. When a person with the transmitter touches a suitably-equipped device with an embedded receiver, the modulated electric field will be translated into data, which will be gathered by the receiving device. The device uses NTT's human area network (HAN) technology.


(NTT Firmo body network data transfer diagram)

At present, NTT's Firmo only allows transmission; the data speed is a relatively pokey 230kbps. However, NTT promises a zippier version that handles audio/video data at a (hopefully not actually) blistering 10Mbs.

At $8K, this device is for only the most determined early adopters.


(NTT RedTacton human area networking technology)

The device makes use of NTT's RedTacton human area networking technology; prototypes of this device were available in 2005.

RedTacton enables the first practical Human Area Network between body-centered electronic devices and PCs or other network devices embedded in the environment via a new generation of user interface based on totally natural human actions such as touching, holding, sitting, walking, or stepping on a particular spot. RedTacton can be used for intuitive operation of computer-based systems in daily life, temporary one-to-one private networks based on personal handshaking, device personalization, security, and a host of other applications based on new behavior patterns enabled by RedTacton.

NTT describes the following kinds of applications that Firmo can make possible.

  • One-to-One services
    With the ability to send attribute data from personal information devices worn on the body to computers embedded in the environment, one-to-one services could be implemented that are tailored to the individual needs of the user.
  • Intuitive operation of personal information devices
    Communication is triggered by totally natural human actions and behavior, so there is no need to insert smart cards, connect cables, tune frequencies, or any of the other inconveniences usually associated with today's electronic devices.
  • Device personalization
    Setup, registration, and configuration information for an individual user can all be uploaded to a device the instant the device is touched, eliminating the need for the device to be registered or configured in advance.
  • New behavior patterns
    Tables, walls, floors and chairs can all act as conductors and dielectrics, turning furniture and other architectural elements into a new class of transmission medium. For example, a user could have instant access to the Internet merely by placing a laptop onto a conductive tabletop.
  • Security applications
    RedTacton could be installed on doors, cabinets and other locations calling for secure access, such that each secure access could be initiated and authenticated with a simple touch. At the same time, all the transaction details and relevant user attributes (personal identity, security clearance, etc.) could be logged by the security system.

It's not a great sfnal example, but this does remind me of the hypercards used in Snow Crash to exchange information between avatars; basically, they just used a natural motion to perform a data transfer function.

Via Networking the human body opens countless doors: Japanese data transfer system flows bits across skin and NTT Firmo transmits data through skin. See also this RedTacton news release.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/24/2008)

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