Home / Technology / News /  Why some young scientists are riding high on radio waves

Bengaluru: Last week, seven Indian scientists including three women from the Asia-Pacific region were awarded ‘The International Union of Radio Science (URSI)-Young Scientist Award 2019’ in New Delhi for their "substantial contribution" to the field of radio science--the study of all aspects of electromagnetic fields and waves.

The Young Scientist Award (YSA) is awarded to scientists / researchers who are less than 35 years of age.

One of them, G Shrikanth Reddy , is an assistant professor in the School of Computing and Electrical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Mandi in Himachal Pradesh.

YSA recognized Reddy’s past and current academic and research work in field of Radio Frequency (RF), Microwave Antennas and Passive Component Design. In the year 2012, for instance, while pursuing his PhD at IIT-Bombay, Reddy started his research on, ‘MIMO (Multi Input, Multi Output) Antennas and Integrated Filters’, which has an end application in all communication networks.

Two years later, Reddy visited the University Pierre and Marie Curie (UPMC) in France for a period of six months as a Raman-Charpak Fellow where he explored ‘How microwave propagates within human tissues’. In the future, this study may help in Body Area Network (BAN) communication where doctors can seek information about patient’s medical condition without being physically present with the patient, Reddy said in a phone interview.

"It's the Internet of Things (IoT) where your body acts as a channel. Multiple sensors within your body communicate with a single sensor. My part was to generate an alogorithm to identify the modes of propagation within the body," Reddy explained.

BAN, also known as wireless body area network (WBAN) refers to the wireless network technology used in combination with wearables. The main purpose of these networks is to transmit data produced by wearable devices to a wireless local area netowrk (WLAN), to the Internet, or exchange the data directly with each other.

There are two types of devices in the global BAN market--wearable devices and implant devices. Of the two, the segment of wearable devices accounts for a greater share in the market, according to Transparency Market Research.

The market research firm estimates the global BAN market to touch about $63 million by 2025. Some of the key technologies leveraged in BAN include Bluetooth, ZigBee, Wi-Fi, and other communication technologies such as IEEE 802.15.6, mobile networks, Ultra Wideband (UWB), Zarlink technology, ANT protocol, Rubee active wireless protocol, Bluetooth Low Energy, according to the market research firm.

Asia Pacific, according to the market research firm, is a key market for BAN powered primarily by China. South Korea, Japan, and India are other countries that play a pivotal role in driving the growth in the region.

Of course, if you connect sensors within your body to the internet, there is a theoretical danger of someone hacking into your pacemaker or insulin pump and potentially kill you, just by intercepting and analyzing wireless signals.

Purdue University engineers, according to a 12 March press statement, have tightened security on the "internet of body" by making the network only accessible by you and your devices, "thanks to technology that keeps communication signals within the body itself". The work appeared in the journal 'Scientific Reports'. Study authors include Shreyas Sen, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue, and his students, Debayan Das, Shovan Maity and Baibhab Chatterjee.

According to Sen, body fluids are good carriers of electrical signals. "So far, so-called "body area networks" have used Bluetooth technology to send signals on and around the body. These electromagnetic waves can be picked up within at least a 10-meter radius of a person," he pointed out.

Sen's team has demonstrated a way for human body communication to occur more securely--not going beyond a centimeter off the skin and using 100 times less energy than traditional Bluetooth communication.

Sen and his team made this possible through a device that couples signals in the electro-quasistatic range, which is much lower on the electromagnetic spectrum. Sen's group is working with government and industry to incorporate this device into a dust-sized integrated circuit.

Reddy, meanwhile, is currently working on a project funded by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, which has an application in the area of communication and stealth technologies. He is simultaneously working on enhancing the "hardware part (transmitters, receivers, etc,)" for 5G communication.

"Since these are the days where high speed communication and robust connectivity are in great demand, I believe conferences like URSI AP-RASC will bridge the connectivity between cutting edge technology and the society," Reddy concluded.

URSI Young Scientist Awardees from India

G Shrikanth Reddy: IIT-Mandi

Soumava Mukherjee: IIT-Jodhpur

Debdeep Sarkar: IIT-Kanpur

Chandreyee Sarkar: University of Calcutta

Arijit De: Netaji Subhash Engineering College

Sneha Yadav: Vikram Sarabhai Space Center

Remya Bhanu: Indian Institute of Geomagnetism


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