Computing Now Exclusive Content — December 2010

News Archive

July 2012

Gig.U Project Aims for an Ultrafast US Internet

June 2012

Bringing Location and Navigation Technology Indoors

May 2012

Plans Under Way for Roaming between Cellular and Wi-Fi Networks

Encryption System Flaw Threatens Internet Security

April 2012

For Business Intelligence, the Trend Is Location, Location, Location

Corpus Linguistics Keep Up-to-Date with Language

March 2012

Are Tomorrow's Firewalls Finally Here Today?

February 2012

Spatial Humanities Brings History to Life

December 2011

Could Hackers Take Your Car for a Ride?

November 2011

What to Do about Supercookies?

October 2011

Lights, Camera, Virtual Moviemaking

September 2011

Revolutionizing Wall Street with News Analytics

August 2011

Growing Network-Encryption Use Puts Systems at Risk

New Project Could Promote Semantic Web

July 2011

FBI Employs New Botnet Eradication Tactics

Google and Twitter "Like" Social Indexing

June 2011

Computing Commodities Market in the Cloud

May 2011

Intel Chips Step up to 3D

Apple Programming Error Raises Privacy Concerns

Thunderbolt Promises Lightning Speed

April 2011

Industrial Control Systems Face More Security Challenges

Microsoft Effort Takes Down Massive Botnet

March 2011

IP Addresses Getting Security Upgrade

February 2011

Studios Agree on DRM Infrastructure

January 2011

New Web Protocol Promises to Reduce Browser Latency

To Be or NAT to Be?

December 2010

Intel Gets inside the Helmet

Tuning Body-to-Body Networks with RF Modeling

November 2010

New Wi-Fi Spec Simplifies Connectivity

Expanded Top-Level Domains Could Spur Internet Real Estate Boom

October 2010

New Weapon in War on Botnets

September 2010

Content-Centered Internet Architecture Gets a Boost

Gesturing Going Mainstream

August 2010

Is Context-Aware Computing Ready for the Limelight?

Flexible Routing in the Cloud

Signal Congestion Rejuvenates Interest in Cell Paging-Channel Protocol

July 2010

New Protocol Improves Interaction among Networked Devices and Applications

Security for Domain Name System Takes a Big Step Forward

The ROADM to Smarter Optical Networking

Distributed Cache Goes Mainstream

June 2010

New Application Protects Mobile-Phone Passwords

WiGig Alliance Reveals Ultrafast Wireless Specification

Cognitive Radio Adds Intelligence to Wireless Technology

May 2010

New Product Uses Light Connections in Blade Server

April 2010

Browser Fingerprints Threaten Privacy

New Animation Technique Uses Motion Frequencies to Shake Trees

March 2010

Researchers Take Promising Approach to Chemical Computing

Screen-Capture Programming: What You See is What You Script

Research Project Sends Data Wirelessly at High Speeds via Light

February 2010

Faster Testing for Complex Software Systems

IEEE 802.1Qbg/h to Simplify Data Center Virtual LAN Management

Distributed Data-Analysis Approach Gains Popularity

Twitter Tweak Helps Haiti Relief Effort

January 2010

2010 Rings in Some Y2K-like Problems

Infrastructure Sensors Improve Home Monitoring

Internet Search Takes a Semantic Turn

December 2009

Phase-Change Memory Technology Moves toward Mass Production

IBM Crowdsources Translation Software

Digital Ants Promise New Security Paradigm

November 2009

Program Uses Mobile Technology to Help with Crises

More Cores Keep Power Down

White-Space Networking Goes Live

Mobile Web 2.0 Experiences Growing Pains

October 2009

More Spectrum Sought for Body Sensor Networks

Optics for Universal I/O and Speed

High-Performance Computing Adds Virtualization to the Mix

ICANN Accountability Goes Multinational

RFID Tags Chat Their Way to Energy Efficiency

September 2009

Delay-Tolerant Networks in Your Pocket

Flash Cookies Stir Privacy Concerns

Addressing the Challenge of Cloud-Computing Interoperability

Ephemeralizing the Web

August 2009

Bluetooth Speeds Up

Grids Get Closer

DCN Gets Ready for Production

The Sims Meet Science

Sexy Space Threat Comes to Mobile Phones

July 2009

WiGig Alliance Makes Push for HD Specification

New Dilemnas, Same Principles:
Changing Landscape Requires IT Ethics to Go Mainstream

Synthetic DNS Stirs Controversy:
Why Breaking Is a Good Thing

New Approach Fights Microchip Piracy

Technique Makes Strong Encryption Easier to Use

New Adobe Flash Streams Internet Directly to TVs

June 2009

Aging Satellites Spark GPS Concerns

The Changing World of Outsourcing

North American CS Enrollment Rises for First Time in Seven Years

Materials Breakthrough Could Eliminate Bootups

April 2009

Trusted Computing Shapes Self-Encrypting Drives

March 2009

Google, Publishers to Try New Advertising Methods

Siftables Offer New Interaction Model for Serious Games

Hulu Boxed In by Media Conglomerates

February 2009

Chips on Verge of Reaching 32 nm Nodes

Hathaway to Lead Cybersecurity Review

A Match Made in Heaven: Gaming Enters the Cloud

January 2009

Government Support Could Spell Big Year for Open Source

25 Reasons For Better Programming

Web Guide Turns Playstation 3 Consoles into Supercomputing Cluster

Flagbearers for Technology: Contemporary Techniques Showcase US Artifact and European Treasures

December 2008

.Tel TLD Debuts As New Way to Network

Science Exchange

November 2008

The Future is Reconfigurable

Tuning Body-to-Body Networks with RF Modeling

by George Lawton

Understanding the human body's radio characteristics is in its infancy. The dynamics of human tissue capacitive, absorptive, and resistive properties pose unique challenges to wireless networking. Apple’s latest iPhone was unexpectedly crippled by the capacitive effects of an errant finger.

Researchers at the Wireless Communications Research Group (WCRG) at Queen's University in Belfast hope to improve on this field with better RF modeling of the human body in different types of environments. The results could lead to new antennas, better RF channel designs, and improved networking protocols. A recent US$800,000, 5-year grant from the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Engineering and Physical Research Council is jumpstarting their research.

The new antennas promise wireless devices with more robust connectivity and less radiation directed back at the wearers. The new protocols could lead to new types of mesh networks that could prove valuable in medical body area networks (BANs), sports team equipment, or collaborative gaming devices. The WCRG plans to leverage all the project findings to develop disruption-tolerant and mesh networking protocols.

Off-Body Transmission Errors

The research focuses on how to bridge the communication gap between the many devices expected to be worn on (or in) peoples' bodies as well as the communications with base stations in the house, office, or cell phone towers. Simon Cotton, WCRG research fellow said, "Much of the previous and current research on what we call body-centric communications has dealt with wireless devices situated on the body communicating with other wireless devices colocated on the body." He cited medical BANs as an example.

Cotton said that our understanding of how to effectively transmit the information collected in such networks in an off-body direction to a wireless base station or other nearby wireless devices hasn’t kept pace with the technology to implement the networks. "The aim of this research," he explained, "is build a fundamental understanding of signal propagation between human bodies forming body-to-body networks and to build new statistical and analytical models which describe this process."

Under the guidance of William Scanlon, professor of wireless communications at Queen's University, the WCRF has cultivated extensive expertise in antenna design, wireless channels, and networking. The research in this study will let the group create new antennas designed specifically for body-to-body network use and develop novel protocols that are tailored to the dynamics of this new type of mobile ad hoc network.

Human RFs

The antenna is one of the most significant elements in any RF system. It couples the electromagnetic signal to the air, and human bodies complicate both on- and off-site communications. Local communications on a single body require low power and an antenna that spreads the signal out across the body’s surface, whereas communication with other devices requires an antenna that sends the signal away from the body. The WCRF researchers are looking at how to create wearable antenna patches that can support both modes of communication using separate antenna elements.

The antenna designs will require a better understanding of the human body as an operating environment, Cotton said. Placing antennas on the human body introduces new design challenges: "These include antenna-body electromagnetic interaction, radiation pattern distortion that may lead to nonisotropic signal reception and time-varying shifts in resonant frequency." Cotton expects the research to generate understanding and models to support antennas specifically developed for effective body-to-body communications.

Patch antennas should be more flexible and compact than traditional monopole antennas. They can also embed a ground plane that directs most of the radiation away from the body's surface, unlike the omnidirectional radiation pattern associated with the monopole. This will make it easier to transmit to a wireless device on another body.

The researchers will look at popular ISM frequencies, such as the 868 MHz and 2.45 GHz as used in ZigBee and Wi-Fi. They will also study future high-bandwidth body-to-body communications using new antenna array designs at 60 GHz.

Mind the Gap

When gaps occur in traditional cellular networks, communication is impossible. Several research groups have developed disruption-tolerant and mesh network protocols that let peers pass information between each other in a way that bridges these gaps. These new human RF models will help to improve these types of protocols.

These protocols will let networks pass information along via a kind of sneakernet among people who move into physical proximity of each other. For example, a group of friends could exchange high-definition videos between body computers when pairs of people are physically proximate via BitTorrent-like protocols. Firefighters might relay video or vital signs information to others in the team or to a command center.

"With the possibility of widespread use of body-to-body networks in densely populated areas," Cotton said, "this type of technology will be used in everything from medical applications to recreational activities such as mobile gaming and truly mobile cloud computing. Cellular companies would be in an ideal position to capitalize on this research."

George Lawton is a freelance technology journalist. Contact him via his website at