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Electro-Quasistatic Human Body Communication: From Bio-Physical Modeling to Broadband Circuits and HCI Applications

posted on 15.08.2019 by Shovan Maity
Decades of scaling in semiconductor technology has resulted in a drastic reduction in the cost and size of unit computing. This has enabled computing capabilities in small form factor wearable and implantable devices. These devices communicate with each other to form a network around the body, commonly known as the Wireless Body Area Network (WBAN). Radio wave transmission over air is the commonly used method of communication among these devices. However, the human body can be used as the communication medium by utilizing its electrical conductivity property. This has given rise to Human Body Communication (HBC), which provides higher energy efficiency and enhanced security compared to over the air radio wave communication enabling applications like remote health monitoring, secure authentication. In this thesis we characterize the human body channel characteristics at low frequencies, utilize the insight obtained from the channel characterization to build high energy-efficiency, interference-robust circuits and demonstrate the security and selectivity aspect of HBC through a Common Off the Shelf (COTS) component-based system. First, we characterize the response of the human body channel in the 10KHz1MHz frequency range with wearable transmitter/ receiver to study the feasibility of using it as a broadband communication channel. Voltage mode measurements with capacitive termination show almost at-band response in this frequency range, establishing the body as a broadband channel. The body channel response is also measured across different interaction scenario between two wearable devices and a wearable and a computer. A bio-physical model of the HBC channel is developed to explain the measurement results and the wide discrepancies found in previous studies.We analyze the safety aspect of different type of HBC by carrying out theoretical circuit and FEM based simulations. A study is carried out among multiple subjects to assess the effect of HBC on the vital parameters of a subject. A statistical analysis of the results shows no signi cant change in the vital parameters before and during HBC transmission, validating the theoretical simulations showing >!000x safety margin compared to the established ICNIRP guidelines. Next, an HBC transceiver is built utilizing the wire-like, broadband human body channel to enable high energy efficiency. The transceiver also provides robustness to ambient interference picked up by the human body through integration followed by periodic sampling. The transceiver achieves 6.3pJ/bit energy effciency while operating at a maximum data rate of 30Mbps, while providing -30dB interference tolerant operation. Finally, a COTS based HBC prototype is developed, which utilizes low frequency operation to enable selective and physically secure communication strictly during touch for Human Computer Interaction (HCI) between two wearable devices for the rst time. A thorough study of the effect of different parameters such as environment, posture, subject variation, on the channel loss has also been characterized to build a robust HBC system working across different use cases. Applications such as secure authentication (e.g. opening a door, pairing a smart device) and information exchange (e.g. payment, image, medical data, personal pro file transfer) through touch is demonstrated to show the impact of HBC in enabling new human-machine interaction modalities.


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Shreyas Sen

Additional Committee Member 2

Kaushik Roy

Additional Committee Member 3

Anand Raghunathan

Additional Committee Member 4

Byunghoo Jung