Researchers use the human body as a transmission medium to power wearable devices

Wearable devices, such as smartwatches, are extremely popular today. One of the most significant downsides to a smartwatch or other wearables is the need to recharge them frequently. The small size and low volume for battery power typically means they need to be charged daily, and charging multiple devices is inconvenient.

A group of researchers from the National University of Singapore has made a breakthrough in powering wearable devices, including those used in medical settings, using the human body as a transmission medium. The technology the team has developed allows a single device, such as a mobile phone placed in a pocket, to wirelessly power other wearable devices on the user's body using their body as the medium for power transmission.

The team says the breakthrough would eliminate the hassle of charging multiple wearable devices at the same time by powering them all with a single rechargeable device. The approach also has a significant advantage in that it can harvest unused energy from the electronics in a typical home office to power wearable devices. To extend operations of the wireless devices, the researchers designed a receiver and transmitter system that uses the body as the medium for power transmission and energy harvesting.

Each receiver and transmitter has a chip inside that is used as a type of springboard to extend coverage over the entire body. The user places the transmitter on a single power source, such as a smartwatch, and multiple receivers can be placed anywhere on the body. The system can harness energy from the source to power multiple wearables via a process called body-coupled power transmission.

The method means that users only need to charge a single device, and the rest of the devices worn are powered from a single source. The experiment shows the system allows a single power source that is fully charged to power up to ten wearables on the body for ten hours. The team also investigated harvesting energy from within a home or office using electromagnetic waves that people are exposed to. The receiver can scavenge power from EM waves from the ambient environment to power the wearable devices regardless of their location on the body.