Stanford engineers have come up with a new kind of wearable technology that has been named BodyNet. BodyNet picks up the physiological signals coming from the skin. This unusual technology is comprised of wireless sensors that can stick just like band-aids and beam readings to a receiver.
BodyNet is the brainchild of Zhenan Bao, who is a chemical engineering professor. She is a staunch believer of the idea that the wearable technology will someday be used in medical settings for taking complete body readings. Bao says one day it will be possible to create a full-body skin-sensor array to collect physiological data without interfering with a person’s normal behavior.
To use an RFID reader, you hold up an ID card next to an RFID receiver, and an antenna in the ID card receives RFID energy from the receiver and then generates a code that is beamed back to the receiver. BodyNet stickers function similar to these ID cards. They also possess an antenna that can harvest some of the incoming RFID energy from a receiver on the clothing for powering up its sensors. These sensors take readings from the skin and beam them back to the nearby receiver.
The researchers had to deal with one key problem; they needed an antenna that was able to bend and stretch just like the skin. They screen-printed metallic ink on a rubber sticker. However, whenever the antenna bent or stretched, those movements weakened the signals. To get around this problem, the Stanford researchers developed a new type of RFID system that could beam strong and accurate signals to the receiver despite constant fluctuations. The battery-powered receiver then uses Bluetooth to periodically upload data from the stickers to a smartphone, computer, or other permanent storage.