The Skinny On An RFID Alternative
By Carlo Longino, Tue Aug 03 21:00:00 GMT 2004

A German company has come up with a handy short-range communications technology that uses human skin to transmit data.

Ident Technology says its Skinplex technology could be used to transmit a code from a identifier a user wears through touch, or through the air at a distance of up to 50 centimeters. It could open doors, unlock cars, be used for proximixty alarms, or any other of the myriad uses being investigated for RFID or near-field communication products.

When the user, wearing the identifier, touches a receiver, a 30-nanoampere current flows across the user's skin and transmits a security code. The technology can also sendwirelessly via a capacitive link, presumably using the skin and body as a transmitter.

The company's COO told EE Times that its technology is 30 to 50 percent cheaper than RFID, but it's hard to see the technology bumping RFID out of the driver's seat in its nascent market. The idea of transmitting current across the body -- no matter how small or how safe -- is probably a little too creepy for most people, and it wouldn't seem that there are any applications where something similar couldn't be done with RFID rather than proprietary technology. If an indentifier needs to be attached to a person, it can be done with a ring or ID tag that won't have to send current across the user's body.

The exec brags that Ident already has "key patents in hand," though the story says the company has applied for 16. Microsoft, however, has been awarded a US patent for something that sounds very similar, setting up another potential obstacle.