Wi-Fi is the ubiquitous representative of our modern internet era. In fact it actually has some rather unusual quirks related to its signal transmission convenience. Networks using Wi-Fi can surprisingly be used for a wide variety of detection and tracking functions.
Adding to this list in the near future, at least according to the latest research, is sleep monitoring. That right, your Wi-Fi router may just be used in the next few decades to see if you’re dreaming.
The Tiny Bumps and Bounces of Sleep
Wi-Fi has such versatile applications in scanning and detection mainly due to its sensitivity. Motion tracking, for example, can be achieved simply by reading minute changes in signal intensities across a defined area. It can even efficiently do so in the presence of solid obstacles, such as thick walls, despite its actual limited maximum range.
A research team from MIT, with the cooperation of the Massachusetts General Hospital, utilized this scanning potential once again. This time, the RF emitter is installed with a specially designed AI that collates data from various tiny signal reflections from a person. Basically, the AI analyzes subtle bits and bounces of the Wi-Fi signal around the person to build sleep pattern data. The system detects various sleep phases over the course of several sleeping hours, letting users know if the person is awake, in a certain state of sleep, or even if he or she is dreaming.
So, how exactly accurate is this seemingly crude tracking device? The report has shown that it is actually about 80 percent accurate, almost as accurate as a professionally implemented EEGs. Standard sleep monitoring devices so far have only reached about 65 percent. Even then, these trackers often only monitor duration, physical activity, and simply whether or not the subject is awake.
Non-Intrusive Sleep Research
As mentioned earlier, using Wi-Fi signals for physical monitoring purposes isn’t exactly new. However, this is the first time that it has been used to detect and monitor a person’s sleep phases.
Typical sleep monitors often require direct physical contact in order to collect user data. Health trackers still require wrist strapping, and EEGs need multiple electrodes sticking onto a person’s head. This not only tampers with the collated data, but it also could send ‘false’ information, something that would never otherwise have come up if the person is not aware of the tracker’s presence.
Additionally, the Wi-Fi emitting RF device was designed to be not much bigger than an average home circuit breaker (or a laptop), with the prototype itself encased in a no-so-noticeable pure white casing. The unassuming form factor helps with its non-intrusive design, as it could easily be installed without the tracked individual being actively aware of it.
The current endgame for the research is to ultimately use the Wi-Fi AI sleep tracking system to build medical data from conditions typically associated with sleep deficiencies. The report has stated Parkinson’s disease as an objective, with the researchers hoping to unravel more of the illness’ mysteries using their new invention.