First Look

Who goes there? Let me see your RF signature!

wireless silhouette fingerprints mit 0
Credit: MIT

Using an incredibly weak radio frequency signal, a new system developed at MIT CSAIL can see through walls and identify individuals


This is amazing technology: A team at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) has published a paper titled Capturing the Human Figure Through a Wall which explains how a wireless system called RF-Capture can detect and actually identify people on the other side of a wall using a radio frequency signal that’s just 1/10,000 of the power a cellphone radiates. According to an MIT News article:

The team has shown that it can detect gestures and body movements as subtle as the rise and fall of a person’s chest from the other side of a house, allowing a mother to monitor a baby’s breathing or a firefighter to determine if there are survivors inside a burning building.

The system was trained on 15 individuals and it was able to identify them with an accuracy of almost 90 percent.

Before you start envisaging mobile scanning of random buildings by law enforcement and bad guys note that, at present, the system is only capable of operating from a static position. That’s not to say that algorithm improvements might not make the system more flexible but from the paper’s details, something like that appears to be a long way off. Still, the applications for detecting humans in this manner are enormous and the team is already developing a product called Emerald the will “predict and prevent falls among the elderly.” 

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