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Making sense of Wi-Fi sensing

Making sense of Wi-Fi sensing
Wi-Fi sensing has become a popular and viable way to detect objects and motion. The technology offers several advantages over traditional motion detection methods. This article takes a closer look at how.
Increasingly, Wi-Fi sensing has become a popular and viable way to detect objects and motion. The technology offers several advantages over traditional motion detection methods. This article takes a closer look at how.
 
These days, who can live without Wi-Fi? It’s almost ubiquitous in our daily life, allowing us to go online wirelessly. In fact, IDC forecasts Wi-Fi-enabled products are expected to ship 3.9 billion and 4.1 billion, respectively this year and in 2024.
 
Yet Wi-Fi can do much more than just transmitting data packets wirelessly. One of the more unique applications is Wi-Fi sensing, which detects the presence and movement of objects in a given space. The technology is not exactly new. Yet adoption and deployment have been on the increase in recent years.
 
“After years of research and development, the technology has become commercially available within the past few years, steadily gaining traction since entering the market, with adoption in the home security, telecommunications and healthcare industries,” said Tony Nicolaidis, Chief Commercial Officer at Origin. “Adoption has grown significantly as more use cases demonstrate the unique value of WiFi Sensing across these verticals. As such, the WiFi Sensing industry is primed for rapid growth in the coming years.”
 

How it works

 
Wi-Fi sensing works by detecting changes in Wi-Fi signal patterns in the environment. For example, when an object crosses the communication path between two Wi-Fi devices, Wi-Fi sensing detects the change in the signal pattern and, with the help of analytics, interprets what that object might be and how it’s moving. This, then, has security and safety applications. Someone present at the premises when no one is supposed to be there, or someone falling, can all be detected and alerted to the user.
 

Advantages over other sensors

 
While an emerging technology, Wi-Fi sensing boasts certain advantages over the more mainstream motion detection solutions. “Traditional motion sensors like passive infrared (PIR) are popular but primarily used for security purposes. Cameras offer visual monitoring but can be costly and require substantial bandwidth. Smart home gadgets, such as occupancy-based thermostats, are gaining popularity for tracking energy usage, yet their versatility may be limited, providing an incomplete picture,” said Taj Manku, CEO and Founder of Cognitive Systems.
 
Below we take a look at some of the advantages offered by Wi-Fi sensing.
 

No need to change existing Wi-Fi infrastructure

 
It’s important to note that if the user already has Wi-Fi, there’s no need to change their existing Wi-Fi infrastructure.
 
“Wi-Fi sensing capitalizes on existing Wi-Fi signals and utilizes the infrastructure of Internet service providers, including routers and smart home devices. This approach presents a cost-effective method for gaining comprehensive insights into home activities. By significantly reducing costs and removing barriers to entry for consumers, Wi-Fi sensing becomes an exceptionally user-friendly solution,” Manku said. “Furthermore, by leveraging the fundamental technology of Wi-Fi signals, Wi-Fi sensing seamlessly integrates within an ecosystem of interconnected products and services, all accessible through the Internet. As the technology continues to evolve, its integrations will expand, offering not only a wider range of applications but also a more precise depiction of home activities.”
 

Privacy

 
A main advantage of Wi-Fi sensing is privacy protection. As mentioned, Wi-Fi sensing works by way of detecting changes in Wi-Fi signal patterns. As such, it does not record video or keep recorded footage. “Unlike cameras, Wi-Fi Sensing does not have visibility into specific activities, guaranteeing a heightened level of confidentiality. This aspect makes it an ideal choice for individuals seeking to preserve their privacy in their homes,” Manku said.
 

Whole home coverage

 
Another advantage is that Wi-Fi sensing is non-line-of-sight. “Wi-Fi sensing surpasses the limitations of cameras by not requiring a line of sight and remaining unaffected by low-light or no-light conditions. As a result, Wi-Fi sensing proves more effective in providing coverage over a larger area. Unlike systems such as PIR sensors or cameras, which operate within a limited field of view, Wi-Fi signals can function wherever a user has a connected device,” Manku added.
 

No wearables needed

 
According to Nicolaidis, most home activity insight technologies come in the form of a connected wearable device used to communicate with a third party; these technologies require users to leverage a physical device that needs to be worn at all times such as smart watches, pendants or smart glasses. However, with Wi-Fi sensing, things can be different.
 
“WiFi Sensing eliminates the need for indoor Mobile person emergency response system usage, which averages around a 30 percent adherence rate and contributes to an over 90 percent false alarm rate when devices are improperly removed. This is especially important for people with dementia,” Nicolaidis said.
 
Currently, Wi-Fi sensing is mostly deployed in home settings. Yet it has application potential in other verticals as well. We’ll take a look at this in an upcoming article.


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