Feeds

Boffins demo 'through-walls' people tracker

Ring of Zigbee nodes peers inside building

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
YOU are the threat: True confessions of real-life sysadmins
Who will save the systems from the men and women who save the systems from you?
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
Broadband sellers in the UK are UP TO no good, says Which?
Speedy network claims only apply to 10% of customers
Virgin Media struck dumb by NATIONWIDE packet loss balls-up
Turning it off and on again fixes glitch 12 HOURS LATER
Ofcom snatches 700MHz off digital telly, hands it to mobile data providers
Hungry mobe'n'slab-waving Blighty swallows spectrum
Fujitsu CTO: We'll be 3D-printing tech execs in 15 years
Fleshy techie disses network neutrality, helmet-less motorcyclists
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Getting ahead of the compliance curve
Learn about new services that make it easy to discover and manage certificates across the enterprise and how to get ahead of the compliance curve.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.