It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie. A wireless network that can detect when someone is moving through it and respond. While the technology is still very new, and some further development is required to truly refine it, the concept is innovative enough to attract attention. If your curiosity has been piqued then you’re in the right place. Today, we are going to take a look at the emerging technology that may just change motion sensing technology forever.

What is Wi-Fi Motion Detection?

The concept behind Wi-Fi motion detection is very simple. An additional sensor works with the current wifi signal in an area to detect disturbances in that field. So when a door opens, or a person walks into the room, the system can detect it; even through walls. These systems are rigged up in different ways. Some systems use altered Wi-Fi routers/access points in conjunction with other wireless devices connected to the router. This gives them a possible range extension and flexibility regarding coverage. Other systems make use of proprietary hardware that can make use of existing wifi networks or create their own wifi detection fields.

The technical limitations are relevant to how detailed the detection can be. For example, basic systems can detect a large, moving mass but can’t differentiate a human from a pet from a large plant swaying in the breeze from an AC vent. On the other end of the spectrum, the signal detection can be fine enough to detection gestures made with the hand or even one person’s heartbeat detected and differentiated from another in the same room.

What are the possible applications?

The applications for this kind of system are myriad. Yes, it can be used as part of a standard security system, for the detection of intruders. In fact, since the wifi signal can pass through walls, you have the potential to even detect motion outside your home/business. It can also be used for a more passive type of home monitoring. For example, if you have children who come home after school. A motion sensor system that is already integrated with your network (vs an add-on) can tell you when someone walks in the kitchen door would let you know when they get home and could do so without the overhead of placing a physical motion detector. Paired with a camera or other systems, it could provide a robust and dead-simple to install detection solution.

Other potential applications for a system like this are for the differently abled. A motion detection system, properly configured, could allow for a camera-less gesture recognition system. This would allow for the remote control of devices without the invasive potential and cost of camera systems. With the addition of a related heartbeat monitoring system, a technology which is in its infancy at MIT labs, could be used to help monitor the aged or ill and automatically notify when thresholds are breached. All without having to physically wire in sensors and make sure they are covering all possible traffic areas.

Even if security isn’t your focus, there is real potential for automated systems triggering. In the same way that a Nest thermostat uses sensor so it can determine when no one is at home and therefore it’s safe to leave the AC/Heat off. Having the heat in your house turn up when you walk in the door or simply not turn off while someone is home is doable. Since the entire field can be monitored at all times, you could track/pattern movement and room usage patterns in a home or business. Said another way, this technology permits a vast trove of useful data to be collected from an existing setup for later mining.

What are the possible limitations?

These systems are not without their limits. The biggest limit of a system like this would be signal range. As a wireless network extends over a wider range and covers more barriers (ie- walls) between the transmitter and the receiver, the signal gets weaker. This makes for systems that may be more prone to errors at the edge of their range. They are also limited by the signal of the wireless system. If the power or signal are interrupted, the system could be out of commission.

As you can see, these systems have applications that range from the convenience of a cup of coffee that begins brewing itself when you get out of bed to possibly lifesaving solutions. With such a wide range of options this technology could be showing up in many different types of homes and businesses soon. When it comes to full maturity it is likely to be a game changer. If you’re not keeping an eye on this one, then you will want to in the future.

Next, Part 2

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