Lay your tablet on a table, join its network

A university lab is showing its concept of networks formed by laying gadgets on shared surfaces

A research team is demonstrating tables that form local networks among the devices laid upon their surfaces, while also providing wireless charging, at the Ceatec electronics show in Japan.

The concept is meant to support ad-hoc networks that are more secure and local than current Wi-Fi networks, without the need for cables. The team from Japan's prestigious University of Tokyo that is working on the technology envisions the tables being used in business meetings or classrooms, where temporary, instant connections are useful.

(See a demonstration from the show floor on YouTube.)

The tables are made using a thin sheet made of small mesh panels, which can contain electromagnetic waves in two dimensions, while also carrying a small electric current. Devices that interact with the sheet must generally be equipped with a special coupler, although team members said it is also possible to use traditional Wi-Fi antennas for Internet in some cases.

"In standard wireless connections, electromagnetic waves are sent through the air, but here connections are made by making contact with the surface," said Akihito Noda, a doctoral student at the University of Tokyo.

"Requiring surface contact creates a lot of restrictions, but on the other hand there are also some benefits. For instance, if you don't set devices on the surface, no false connections can be made, so there are security benefits."

At a demonstration on the exhibition floor, tablets laid on a table connected easily to a networked router on the same table, avoiding the morass of competing Wi-Fi signals on the show floor. The table also provided enough power to slowly charge a mobile phone and as well as run small fans and LED lights.

All devices displayed where equipped with the special couplers, and the low power supply was an obvious limit on the types of gadgets that could be displayed.

Noda said Internet connections run at Wi-Fi speeds. For charging, 60-centimeter-square sheets have been tested as safely taking 10 watts of power without any ill effects on users. Devices laid on such sheets charge at about 4 watts.

The team, which is working with large Japanese corporations like NEC to develop the technology, is also planning to incorporate it into home furniture, to create surfaces where users can lay their gadgets to automatically charge and join their personal network.

The Ceatec exhibition, Japan's largest electronics show, runs this week at Makuhari, just outside of Tokyo.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jay Alabaster

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?