Posted on March 13, 2019 at 4:03 PM
There has been a popular fear, at least among the scientific community, that electronic wearable devices and medical implants could be hacked. This includes (but isn’t limited to) cardiac pacemakers and cardioverter defibrillators. Given certain circumstances, the security of these devices could be breached by tapping into the wireless signals emitted.
There is some level of speculation that although difficult for a hacker to hack into one of these devices, it is conceivable that one could use their unauthorized access to shock or even disable their victim. These conventional medical devices are not only made unsafe because of these wireless signals but also the short-lived and constant use of power. Luckily, a group of researchers at Purdue University believe that they have found the solution: Convert the current electromagnetic wireless signals to lower-frequency electro-quasistatic signals.
People today are becoming more and more likely to host one such wearable device that could, hypothetically, be controlled by a potential malevolent hacker. Most of these devices signal wirelessly using conventional radio signals. Nothing more than standard undergrad communication theory. To be more specific to the applicable patents, Bluetooth transmitters in the 2.5 GHz range with the ability to be picked up within at least 33 feet radiuses. Electro-quasistatic signals, however, can limit its range to a mere centimeter above the user’s skin.
Wireless transmission is bypassed completely, instead, the user’s body conductivity creates signals. For the hacker, this means one would have to make physical contact with the target to have an opportunity to interact with their implant. Even if a hacker was able to make said contact, it’s unlikely it would be enough. Devices utilizing these signals are also easily adjustable and controllable at the doctors or patients will, while at the same time being much more difficult to hack.
In terms of what this could hold for our future, Bluetooth technology has the potential to be entirely replaced in the medical world. Not only are electro-quasistatic signals safer, but incredibly more efficient. According to the University’s research, devices using these new signals use 100 times less power than conventional Bluetooth devices. Batteries and devices that have adopted electro-quasistatic signals are bound to become much smaller yet at the same time, more powerful. In addition to this, these batteries last much longer compared to devices using Bluetooth. Purdue Professor Shreyas Sen and his team are even working toward building a “dust sized” IC battery.
Sen’s team believes that these tinier and more effective machines could potentially even result in a complete and total replacement of prescription drugs. Instead of taking a pill every day, the user could simply rely on a tiny device. This would come with the added benefit of effectively eliminating the side effects typically associated with the medication. Electro-quasistatic signals have the potential to Any need for a post-installment surgery is also very unlikely.
The full research report, “Enabling Covert Body Area Network using Electro-Quasistatic Human Body Connection”, is available here. The team is currently working to commercialize its newly patented technology.