The Network IS the Human

February 22nd, 2005 | by ian |

Today is a highly appropriate returning to life for this blog, which was one of many hobbies laid aside while starting a new venture. Today is a happy day since Nudecybot likes networking, bared skin and mad dashing, and today we get to combine all of them.

Old-School Human Area Networks

Lets start with Sneakernet which is back in a really big way! This term was coined a few decades ago to refer to the process of moving data from point A to B on phyical media such as floppy disks instead of using a data network.

“Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.” — Tanenbaum, Andrew. Computer Networks. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1996. p83

It is strangely appropriate that while the term is obviously derived from a shoe which allows humans to achieve efficient locomotion, the root of the work is “sneak” meaning furtive; surreptitious. Sneakernet is obviously a very efficient means of moving data illegally as well and has been discussed here and here, to name an infinitessimal fraction of less-than-authoritative sources. Bottom line is the power of sneakernet is increasing rapidly thanks to 100GB hard drives that fit in an iPOD and flash memory that can fit 1GB in the size of a thumbnail. A combination of these devices and ubiquitous wireless networks is combining to create a new information ecology. What will it look like? I currently find it very difficult to imagine. Any aspiring sci-fi authors please step up to the plate.

The Modern Human Area Network

Speaking of sci-fi, thanks to my friend and colleague Dan Koffler for point out what I only assumed was still in the realm of fiction: 10 Mbps epidermal network transfers. Some choice quotes include:

” NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation) is pursuing research and development of an innovative Human Area Networking technology called RedTacton that safely turns the surface of the human body into a data transmission path at speeds up to 10 Mbps between any two points on the body”


“RedTacton enables the first practical Human Area Network between body-centered electronic devices and PCs or other network devices embedded in the environment via a new generation of user interface based on totally natural human actions such as touching, holding, sitting, walking, or stepping on a particular spot.”

I wonder how well it handles concurrent connections and whether people with a larger skin surface have a performance disadvantage but a greater network backplane (capacity) for concurrent transactions. And there are so many questions about environmental influences such as humidity, temperature and ability to operate if you spill coffee on yourself or get hit by lightning. I can’t wait until we can all join hands (apologies to those who don’t know my penchant for obscure 80’s hair metal) and give this a try…

  1. 2 Responses to “The Network IS the Human”

  2. By Pacanukeha on Feb 23, 2005 | Reply

    Oh, for the love of Pete. Hair metal? How fondly I remember the days when you weren’t posting! Heh. Anyway, of course one of the interesting things to think about with dermal nets is the effect of viruses and spam. Think feedback.

  3. By Anonymous on Feb 23, 2005 | Reply

    I love station-wagon quote. While it may have lots of bandwidth, it comes up a bit short in the latency area.

Post a Comment