Wi-fi is great, but it doesn’t pass through the human body very well. Now a team of researchers has shown that it can use ultrasound to send data through chunks of flesh at up to 30 megabits per second.
Medical devices in the human body that have to send or receive data usually rely on radio signals. They can only operate at speeds of tens of kilobits per second because the signals become noisy, and increasing the power to overcome noise could damage tissue.
Now, though, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign have shown that they can encode data on ultrasonic signals then send them through samples such as pork loin and beef liver. The team hit peak speeds of 30 megabits per second which, as the researchers point out to New Scientist, is plenty fast enough to stream video. The results are published on the arXiv server.
Not that this technique will be used to watch Netflix through your belly—though it could be transferred to the human body easily enough. Instead, it could be used to enable medical devices inside the body to more effectively communicate with the outside world, allowing them to provide more detailed real-time data for doctors, or be updated from the outside more quickly.
It won’t always work perfectly. Ultrasound can’t effectively penetrate bone, for a starter. And different layers of tissue will cause the peak speed to drop, as the contrast in material properties between, say, fat and muscle causes the signal to degrade. But that’s being picky: The technique could significantly ramp up data transmission speeds for medical implants.