CFan Academy of Sciences: from science fiction into the reality of the “body network”

In some science fiction movies, you can see scenes where ordinary people become superhuman because of special chips implanted in their bodies. Nowadays, these “black technologies”, which are only available in science fiction movies, have gradually come into reality, and there are more and more products related to human implant devices, which have even replaced some human organs.

Implantation of black technology, understanding the body network

Many science fiction movies already have the concept of body networking, such as “The Matrix” in Neo’s brain was implanted with a chip, thinking and action can be controlled by the computer network; “Super Brain Agent” agent’s brain was implanted with a chip comparable to a supercomputer, can quickly access and crack most of the network, and from which to obtain the corresponding information (Figure 1). These networks made up of chips implanted in human (or animal) bodies are the Body Network.


Figure 1 Neo in The Matrix

The Internet of Bodies is similar to the Internet of Things and the Internet of Vehicles in that a portal or hub system connects various devices within the scope of the scenario, thus forming an overall network. Scientists have now developed chip devices that can be implanted in the human body, and these chips can then form a network between people and people and people and devices through the network (Figure 2).


Figure 2 Implantable devices

Merging with the human body – the working principle of the implantable chip explained

How do devices implanted in the human body work? Let’s first understand the relatively more familiar working principle of the Internet of Things. Take the common smart socket as an example, the manufacturer integrates the control chip in the smart socket, so that the chip can communicate with the cell phone APP through wireless network after the socket is connected to power, and the user can control the socket on the cell phone (Figure 3).


Figure 3 Smart Socket

The principle of body networking is similar, to form a network, power supply, chip and data transmission are three of the most important elements.

First is the power supply, for external devices, power supply is basically not a problem, but for implanted devices to ensure effective power supply is a big problem. Because of the small size of the implanted device, even with the built-in battery, the battery will run out at some point, and then it will be necessary to remove the device again to replace the battery and then re-implant it in the body, which is very troublesome (Figure 4).


Figure 4 Implantable devices are very inconvenient to power and change power sources

Secondly, data transmission, the implantable device operates inside the human body and obtains information, which has to be transmitted to the receiving device outside the human body through communication channels. Conventional IoT can easily achieve wireless communication with the help of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, while the wireless signal of the implantable device will rapidly fade when it passes through the human body, making it difficult to achieve wireless communication like IoT devices.

To solve these problems, researchers at MIT, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed the IVN (In-Vivo Networking) system, which provides a complete solution for powering and communicating with devices.

The IVN system consists of two main components, an external radio wave transmitting base station and an internal implantable device. Firstly, IVN transmits radio waves of different frequencies through an antenna array, and at a certain base point, the frequency of the emitted waves reaches the highest point at the same time, which is able to break the energy threshold required to power the device. This allows the IVN system to wirelessly charge the implanted device, solving the problem of powering the implanted device (Figure 5).


Figure 5 IVN wireless charging mode


The IVN system also transmits data by radio waves. In the IVN system, the data from the implanted device can be transmitted wirelessly without the need for a data cable. When the implanted device is operating inside the body and storing data, the data can be transmitted to the external receiving device through the IVN system. In this way, with the IVN system, we can not only charge the implant system but also transmit the data wirelessly (Figure 6).


Figure 6 IVN system transmits data wirelessly

IVN brings health and convenience

Because IVN enables communication and control of implanted devices, various conveniences can be brought to our lives through implanted devices.

For example, in medical applications, implanted devices can be installed in smart pills for controlled drug release to treat diseases such as malaria and Alzheimer’s disease, and can also be used as stand-alone devices to monitor the user’s blood sugar, intestinal bacteria, etc. The implanted device combined with the currently hot artificial intelligence, it not only allows us to access the operation of each organ in the human body, but also provides comprehensive support for disease diagnosis and health condition assessment through big data and self-learning capabilities (Figure 7).


Figure 7 Smart Pill

Of course there are more interesting applications for the Internet of Bodies, such as memory chips that can be implanted into the human brain to give humans more powerful memory capabilities. Or embedded sensors that turn the human skeleton into a living microphone. In eye embedded devices, images can be captured by blinking and then sent to any local storage device (Figure 8).


Figure 8 Chip that can be implanted in the eye

However, everything has its advantages and disadvantages, with the popularity of implanted devices, how to unify the data transmission format is a problem, after all, implanted data are very sensitive and important, how to convince the implanted device manufacturers to follow the unified specifications? In addition, security precautions are also a problem that has to be considered, now the Internet of Things, the Internet of Cars are hacked into the control device cases, how to ensure the security of the Internet of Things is a problem. As users, we hope to get a simple, unified and secure implanted devices, look forward to this day sooner, so that implanted devices to provide us with better services.

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