How Wi-Fi Sensing Will Change the Face of Wireless Technology
Wi-Fi is an indispensable technology in today's digitally connected world. As of 2022, there are over 500 million public Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide, showing just how vital it is to modern living. The first standards came to be in 1997, and wireless communications capabilities continue to improve today.
But some of the most exciting prospects go beyond the confines of communication. One new technology is poised to spur innovation in exciting new ways. We're talking about Wi-Fi Sensing.
Wi-Fi Sensing offers a new way to take advantage of the technology we already have, setting a course for some genuinely inspiring applications.
What Exactly is Wi-Fi Sensing?
Wi-Fi Sensing detects and interprets movement using existing Wi-Fi signals.
Motion detection and sensors are nothing new. However, what separates Wi-Fi Sensing from standard motion detection is the implementation of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Adding AI capabilities into the mix instantly expands the possibilities, turning simple detection into precise localization, biometric readings, and so much more.
Another massive benefit of Wi-Fi Sensing is adoption. Wi-Fi networks already exist in billions of homes and public spaces around the globe.
Direct implementation won't require complex upgrades and new installations. It takes advantage of the technology we already have. However, it adds new capabilities and a new dimension of functionality.
How Does Wi-Fi Sensing Work?
Interestingly enough, the core principles of Wi-Fi Sensing are similar to a class of standard motion detectors that uses ultrasound. They work by emitting ultrasonic sound waves. Those waves bounce off objects immediately before returning to the device.
When something interrupts that learned reflection pattern, the sensor knows there's motion in the area.
This is very different from the motion-sensing chips that are put into all kinds of devices, from phones to wearables. They use accelerometers and gyroscopes to detect motion directly.
Wi-Fi Sensing works similarly, using the disruption of waves from a wireless device to detect presence.
Of course, things can be much more complex from there!
Whenever a data packet travels through Wi-Fi, your devices quickly compute the Channel State Information (CSI).
The CSI reflects the known properties of the wireless channel. It tells your device essential details about how the signal moves from the transmitter to the receiving device. That way, your gadget knows how it scatters, fades, and decays.
The goal of CSI is to overcome interference and help your device efficiently decode the information.
That process of computing the CSI happens every time you communicate over Wi-Fi. So, what does that have to do with Wi-Fi Sensing?
To strategically overcome interference, CSI captures valuable data about the environment. Most of that information essentially remains hidden.
But what if you harnessed it? That's what Wi-Fi Sensing is all about.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning take that hidden data and decode it, making it instantly usable. Changes in the CSI can dictate even minute movement, turning Wi-Fi into a compelling sensing technology.
There's a lot of promise in Wi-Fi Sensing technology, and some companies are already taking advantage of it. However, there are still some obstacles to overcome.
For example, there's some doubt about how the technology will perform when objects are far away or have slow movement. Researchers continue to refine the technology to make Wi-Fi Sensing as precise and practical as possible.
Another issue is standardization. Right now, devices can't use sensing technology to interact. Fortunately, that's likely to change very soon.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has a committee currently working on a brand-new standard to bring Wi-Fi Sensing to the masses. Dubbed the "802.11bf Wi-Fi Sensing Project," this group plans to establish the next set of game-changing Wi-Fi standards.
Currently, the proposal for 802.11bf will use both low and high-frequency waves to sense motion. The low frequency operates between 1 GHz and 7.125 GHz to provide long-range detection in a big room. Meanwhile, the high-frequency sensing operation at 45 GHz and above detects short-range movement.
802.11bf will also standardize the way devices communicate. Users can create expansive networks of devices that all work in tandem to sense movement in the environment.
Potential Game-Changing Applications
The potential for Wi-Fi is worth the excitement. The technology can make Wi-Fi routers and wireless devices more functional than ever, turning them into multi-functional gadgets.
Possible applications fall into one of three classifications depending on the output:
Detection uses a binary output, which means that the Wi-Fi Sensing reads a simple on or off data. For example, a device would see if there was motion.
Recognition is multi-class and measures multiple non-binary properties. For example, the device could see motion, measure its movement, etc.
Estimation provides a numerical output and could be helpful in applications that require measuring size, distance, angle, and other crucial positioning information.
But what are some real-world examples of possible Wi-Fi Sensing uses? Let’s look at a few.
Wi-Fi Sensing has a lot of promise in the world of home security. The home security market is higher than ever. It had a value of $53.6 billion in 2020, but market projections show it growing to $78.9 billion by 2025.
This technology could make home security more accessible and reliable while reducing false alarms. More importantly, it addresses one of the biggest concerns over home security systems: Privacy.
With Wi-Fi Sensing, security systems can keep watch of every inch of a home without the use of cameras. There's no worry about hacking or spying through cameras. There is, of course, the potential for the Wi-Fi Sensing signals to be hacked.
Elderly Care and Healthcare Monitoring
Wi-Fi Sensing can make a world of difference in health monitoring, too. This technology can be so precise that it measures everything from fall detection to breathing.
While it's still in the very early stages, the AI technology that reads CSI data can provide valuable biometric data.
Best of all, it doesn't require wearables. Healthcare providers and elderly caregivers can monitor breathing rates, detect falls, and even spot abnormal behavior.
Once again, Wi-Fi Sensing eliminates the need for cameras or wearables. So, it's more accessible and provides greater peace of mind.
IoT and Automation
Finally, Wi-Fi Sensing can add a lot of functionality to IoT devices. IoT gadgets already work wonders to make homes more convenient and safer.
This technology can take those capabilities to the next level.
For example, devices can detect movement to operate appliances or turn them off when you're not around. Apply that concept to HVAC systems and lights, and you can easily create an energy-efficient home.
You may even see it in cars to drive safety systems and help keep track of cargo.
The possibilities are endless.
Innovation in the Not-So-Distant Future
Wi-Fi Sensing technology seems like a far-away invention, but we're on the brink of utilizing it. The IEEE 802.11bf is set to finalize near the end of 2024.
While it will be several years until it gets into the hands of consumers, many companies are already starting to experiment and see what's possible.
If you want to create a wireless device, contact us at Voler Systems. We have decades of experience working with wireless technology and sensors to create IoT gadgets, wearables, medical devices, and more.
No matter how Wi-Fi technology evolves, you can trust Voler Systems to be at the cutting edge, ready to turn your product into a reality on time and on budget.
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