Embedded security uses the body as the network

Paul Boughton

Microchip has developed a set of techniques that allow the body to be used as a network, providing a secure way to authenticate communications.

BodyCom technology provides lower energy consumption compared to existing wireless methods, whilst further increasing security via bidirectional authentication. Because no RF antennas are required, BodyCom simplifies circuit-level design and lowers the bill of materials (BOM).  

All of this is enabled by the BodyCom Development V1.0 Framework, which is supplied through free software libraries that work on all of Microchip’s 8-, 16- and 32-bit PIC microcontrollers, of which there are more than 900.

BodyCom technology is activated by capacitively coupling to the human body.  The system then begins communicating bidirectionally between a centralised controller and one or more wireless units, using the body as the channel.  

There are many applications where secure wireless communication is essential, and there is no more secure channel than the human body. This is especially true when bidirectional authentication is added to support advanced encryption, such as KeeLoq technology and AES.

For example, BodyCom technology helps to prevent the 'Relay Attack' problem that is typical in automotive passive-keyless-entry security systems where the code is picked up and relayed but stored to be used later.[Page Break]

Most secure, short-range communication designs are battery powered and highly cost constrained. BodyCom technology significantly increases battery life by eliminating the need for a wireless transceiver or high-power inductive fields. It also simplifies development and lowers BOM costs by making antenna design unnecessary and by using a low-frequency framework with a common microcontroller and standard AFE frequencies (125kHz and 8MHz), with no need for external crystals. BodyCom also eliminates the cost and complexity of certification because it complies with FCC Part 15-B for radiated emissions.

Example applications include Access Control such as security systems, home/industrial door locks, pet doors; Personal Safety & Security including equipment access/disable, power tools, firearms and computer systems; Medical equipment for patient monitoring, hospital-room access or equipment tracking; and Consumer electronics such as profile management for gaming consoles and exercise equipment.

To further enable development and speed time to market, Microchip has launched a $149 BodyCom Development Kit   (DM160213) with a central controller unit and two wireless mobile units.

The free BodyCom Development V1.0 Framework includes a communication library, application code examples and a development GUI for use on personal computers

For more information, www.microchip.com