Feeds

Boffins demo 'through-walls' people tracker

Ring of Zigbee nodes peers inside building

Boost IT visibility and business value

Boffins in Utah have developed a method of detecting and tracking human bodies through building walls.

The method is called radio tomographic imaging (RTI) and doesn't involve any need for the people being tracked to wear any tag or chip. It works by surrounding the area to be monitored with a perimeter of wireless-network nodes, each of which compares signal strengths from all the others.

When the data from all nodes is assembled, radio-blocking objects such as human bodies can be located to within 3 feet - and this can be done with the radio nodes placed on the other side of walls from the area where the human target is.

Professor Neal Patwari of Utah Uni, one of the inventors of the tech, explains:

"The plan is that when there is a hostage situation, for example, or some kind of event that makes it dangerous for police or firefighters to enter a building, then instead of entering the building first, they would throw dozens of these radios around the building and immediately they would be able to see a computer image showing where people are moving inside the building."

Patwari and his colleagues have carried out peer-reviewed studies using the RTI person-tracker tech indoors and among trees. They have also done a through-walls study, carried out in Patwari's home, which so far is published only on arXiv.org - indicating that it hasn't received approval by other boffins. Here's a vid showing the test setup:

It certainly appears to work, though one does note that there are a lot of windows and the walls of Patwari's home don't look terribly thick.

The off-the-shelf network used in the test devices wasn't WiFi but Zigbee, kit used at the moment mainly in home or industrial automation apps. A working system would be cheap to buy, as most of the necessary hardware is already available. And there are definitely customers out there, many of them already embroiled in much more complicated and expensive efforts along the same lines.

Apart from a portable grid that cops, firemen or soldiers could use to track movements inside a building, Patwari and his colleagues suggest their gear could be installed as part of security or home-automation systems, or be used as a means of border monitoring.

"I have aspirations to commercialize this," says Patwari's co-inventor Joey Wilson.

There's more from Utah Uni here with links to all the published research. ®

Seven Steps to Software Security

More from The Register

next story
Scotland's BIG question: Will independence cost me my broadband?
They can take our lives, but they'll never take our SPECTRUM
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Bring back error correction, say Danish 'net boffins
We don't need no steenkin' TCP/IP retransmission and the congestion it causes
NBN Co adds apartments to FTTP rollout
Commercial trial locations to go live in September
Samsung Z Tizen OS mobe is post-phoned – this time for good?
Russian launch for Sammy's non-droid knocked back
Telstra to KILL 2G network by end of 2016
GSM now stands for Grave-Seeking-Mobile network
Seeking LTE expert to insert small cells into BT customers' places
Is this the first step to a FON-a-like 4G network?
What FTC lawsuit? T-Mobile US touts 10GB, $100 family-of-4 plan
Folks 'could use that money for more important things' says CEO Legere
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.