Tech allows digital communication through human contact

Tech allows digital communication through human contact

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Instead of inserting a card or scanning a smartphone to make a payment, what if you could just touch the machine with your finger?

A prototype developed by engineers at Purdue University would essentially allow your body to act as a link between your card or smartphone and the reader or scanner, allowing you to transmit information simply by touching a surface.

The prototype doesn’t transfer money yet, but it’s the first technology that can send information with the touch of a finger. While wearing the prototype as a watch, a user’s body can be used to send information such as a photo or password when they touch a sensor on a laptop, researchers show in a new report. study.

“We’re used to unlocking devices using our fingerprints, but this technology wouldn’t be based on biometrics – it would be based on digital signals. Imagine signing into an app on someone else’s phone with just a touch, ”said Shreyas Sen, Associate Professor Purdue of electrical and computer engineering.

“Everything you touch would become more powerful as digital information passes through it.”

A researcher transfers information from a chip into a watch by touching a sensor connected to a laptop computer. (Photo by Purdue University / John Underwood)

The study is published in Computer-human interaction transactions, a journal of the Association for Computing Machinery. Shovan Maity, a Purdue alumnus, led the study as a Ph.D. student in Sen’s lab. The researchers will also present their results at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Computer Human Interaction (ACM CHI) in May. A video on the research is available at Youtube.

Technology works by establishing an “Internet” in the body that smartphones, smart watches, pacemakers, insulin pumps, and other wearable or implantable devices can use to send information. These devices usually communicate using Bluetooth signals which tend to radiate outside the body. A hacker could intercept these signals from 30 feet away, Sen said.

Rather, Sen’s technology keeps the signals confined within the body by coupling them into a so-called “electro-quasi-static range” which is much lower on the electromagnetic spectrum than typical Bluetooth communication. This mechanism allows the transfer of information by touching only a surface.

Even if your finger were hovering only an inch above a surface, information would not be transferred through this technology without direct contact. This would prevent a hacker from stealing private information such as credit card credentials by intercepting the signals.

Professor Purdue Shreyas Sen (left) and graduate student David Yang demonstrate the technology that enables the transfer of information through direct contact. (Photo by Purdue University / John Underwood)

Researchers demonstrated this ability in the lab by having a person interact with two adjacent surfaces. Each surface was equipped with an electrode for touching, a receiver for obtaining data from the finger, and a light to indicate that the data had been transferred. If the finger directly touches an electrode, only the light on that surface turns on. The fact that the light on the other surface remained off indicates that the data did not leak.

Likewise, if a finger were hovering as close as possible to a laptop’s sensor, a photo would not be transferred. But a hot key could transfer a photo.

Credit card machines and apps like Apple Pay use a alternative Bluetooth signals – called near-field communication – to receive payment by tapping a card or scanning a phone. Sen’s technology …

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