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Microchip Markets RFID Technology that Transmits via the Human Body

The company says its BodyCom active tags and readers are more secure than RFID technology that transmits signals through the air, making it suitable for controlling access to cars, buildings, power tools, computers and firearms.
By Claire Swedberg

According to Dias, the BodyCom base station is designed to respond to touch in order to commence communication. When the base station detects that someone is touching its capacitive coupling pad—which resembles a printed circuit board antenna—it sends a low-power transmission, using the body's exterior as a capacitive coupler. The battery-powered mobile unit in the user's pocket or hand has an antenna that picks up this 125 kHz transmission (the system can be set either so that the tag must be in contact with a person, or so that it can be positioned several inches from a user's skin and still send and receive data), and responds by transmitting an 8 MHz signal encoded with its own unique identifier. The tag's signal travels along the exterior of the user's body until being received by the base station.

In the case of a vehicle's keyless-entry system, the base unit's capacitive coupling pad could be attached to the car's door handle or bumper, and the user carrying a BodyCom tag in his or her hand or pocket would simply touch the pad. This contact would prompt the mobile unit to communicate with the tag and trigger the lock to release, allowing that person to enter his or her car and start the ignition.

Microchip Technology's Edward Dias

The system could also be used to identify an individual before that person operates a piece of equipment. In the case of a computer, a BodyCom base station, including its capacitive coupling pad, would be integrated within the computer, which would fail to operate until the base station received transmission from an approved mobile unit. The same setup could be used for power tools or firearms, rendering them inoperable to all but those with the approved mobile unit on their person. In such applications, the base unit's capacitive coupling pad could be built into the handle of a tool or weapon, for instance.

The technology could also be used with gaming consoles, identifying an individual and linking him or her to that person's gaming history if he or she, for example, visited a friend possessing the same gaming system.

Additionally, the solution could be deployed to control access to a home's pet door. In such a scenario, a BodyCom base station's capacitive coupling pad would be installed at the pet door's entranceway. If a dog or cat wore a BodyCom tag (which could be designed to be as small as a quarter) on its collar, the animal would simply need to come within 4 or 5 inches of the capacitive coupling pad, or touch it directly, in order to prompt the system to unlock and allow that animal entrance. In the meantime, users could be assured that other pets or wild animals would not be able to enter the house through that same door.

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