magnetic communication

Magnetic communication: a new type of wireless communication

Scientists at the University of Oulu in Finland have developed a system that uses magnetic communication to receive messages.

Bluetooth, NFC, WiFi…There’s no shortage of ways for our smartphones to communicate wirelessly. And now there’s another one. At least that’s what researchers are working on at the University of Oulu (in Finland), where a team of scientists has created a system to send messages to a mobile device through a magnetic field. Researchers have taken advantage of the capabilities of the compass, a sensor included in all smartphones these days, which has a magnetometer, which can be used to determine the force and direction of a magnetic signal.

The GPS sensor in your smartphone can be used for more than just determining and tracking your location. The work by the team of Finnish scientists has made it possible to establish magnetic communication between a prototype device made up of an electromagnet and GPS, or more specifically, the GPS magnetometer. The mobile device received the messages in the form of variations in the magnetic field.

The experiment run by the researchers at the University of Oulu first required the magnetic encoding of information, so that a particular variation in the magnetic field would transmit a specific message. Scientists used this technique to send a musical sequence to the smartphone from a web address using the MIDI standard (Musical Instrument Digital Interface, which lets electronic musical instruments share information).

magnetic communication

But despite the originality of this ‘Pulse’ system (as the prototype of the electromagnetic signal transmitter has been dubbed), magnetic communication won’t be replacing any commercial wireless standards for now. Data transmission is slow –just 44 bits per second – and the distance between the two points must be small, just two centimetres. Also, information can only flow in one direction.

However, magnetic communication could be used as an alternative to QR codes or to complement the NFC protocol. In the case of transactions carried out using NFC technology, the Pulse system could ensure that the mobile device is not more than two centimetres from the payment terminal by sending an activation code. The magnetic field could also be used to obtain information in an ATM, with a password using the magnetic communication

The speed of this magnetic communication can be increased, but to do this, more powerful magnetometers would have to be integrated into future generations of smartphones, and the Android kernel would have to be modified.

Images: Johan Larsson and