Enabling Deep-Tissue Networking for Miniature Medical Devices

MIT/Yunfei Ma

Enabling Deep-Tissue Networking for Miniature Medical Devices. Yunfei Ma, Zhihong Luo, Christoph Steiger, Giovanni Traverso, and Fadel Adib. ACM SIGCOMM 2018


We present IVN (In-Vivo Networking), a system that enables powering up and communicating with miniature sensors implanted or injected in deep tissues. IVN overcomes fundamental challenges which have prevented past systems from powering up miniature sensors beyond superficial depths. These challenges include the significant attenuation of bodily tissues and the miniature antennas of the implantable sensors. 

IVN’s key contribution is a novel beamforming algorithm that can focus its energy toward an implantable device, despite its inability to estimate its channel or its location. We implement a multi-antenna prototype of IVN, and perform extensive evaluations via in-vitro, ex-vivo, and in-vivo tests with living mammals. 

Our results demonstrate that it can power up and communicate with millimeter-sized sensors at over 10 cm depths in fluids, as well as battery-free tags placed in a central organ of a swine. The implications of our new beamforming technology extend beyond miniature implantables. In particular, our results demonstrate that IVN can power up off-the-shelf passive RFIDs at distances of 38 m, i.e., 7.6× larger than the operation range of the same RFIDs.

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