Using Magnetic Induction to Facilitate Wireless Networking

Instructor: Vignesh Sivabalan
Magnetic Induction (MI) has emerged as an alternative to traditional wireless communication, especially for underground and underwater communication. Let us discuss MI based wireless communication in detail.

What is Magnetic Induction based Wireless Communication?

Magnetic Induction (MI) enables wireless communication by inducing a magnetic field between the transmitter and receiver devices. Magnetic Induction is a great solution for enabling long-distance wireless communication underwater and underground. Though many wireless communication techniques like electromagnetic waves and acoustic waves exist, they are effective only when air and water are the propagation media respectively. The traditional techniques are not effective with dense materials such as soil, oil reservoirs etc. In such cases, where the media has large material absorption, magnetic induction techniques are used for effective wireless communication. Material absorption rate refers to the capacity of a material to absorb EM waves.

Reasons to use Magnetic Induction as a Wireless Medium

Underground Wireless Communication

Underground communication is challenging for wireless communication as the propagation medium is not air but consists of dense materials like soil, water and rock. Electromagnetic (EM) communication is not effective due to the following problems:

  1. Dynamic channel (allocation of channels to users based on traffic, on the go) issue
  2. Higher path loss (degradation of the signal)
  3. Larger antenna size

Modern methods using magnetic induction solve two of the above-mentioned problems: larger antenna size and dynamic channel condition issues. Though path loss exists in MI and cannot be solved completely, methods for reducing path loss are being developed and some are already in use. Dense propagation medium like water and soil cause minor variations in magnetic field's attenuation rates when compared to air, as the magnetic permeability of soil and water are similar. Permeability refers to the ability of any material to support the formation of a magnetic field.

How Does MI Overcome the Limitations of EM Underground?

MI channels are constant and not dynamic like EM channels. The channel conditions are constant in various propagation media like water, soil, and air as the attenuation rates of the magnetic field remains constant in a nonmagnetic medium. To increase the transmission range, EM uses larger antenna size but MI uses the waveguide property which involves increasing the number of relay coils between the receiver and the transmitter devices.

Underwater Wireless Communication

Though acoustic waves are a highly effective physical communication layer method for UWCN (Underwater Wireless Communication Networks), these waves are affected by the following issues:

  1. Fading
  2. Multipath propagation - transmitted signals take more than one path to reach the destination.
  3. Noise

These issues lead to low bandwidth, high bit error rates and larger propagation delays.

How Does MI Overcome the Limitations of Acoustic Waves Underwater?

These limitations can be overcome by using Magnetic Induction channel as it is not affected by multipath propagation or fading and does not face great propagation delays. The Magnetic Induction waveguide technology reduces path loss. Using MI, the wireless communication range is extended to several hundreds of meters in water due to MI's high bit error rate control.

MI transceivers operate at narrow bands to avoid noise. The MI communication systems are highly directional unlike acoustic waves that uses multipath propagation. Signal fading is avoided by using sufficient repeaters or relay coils between the transmitting and receiving devices.

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