Future Wi-Fi will be able to detect people

Wi-Fi 7 may be able to detect the presence of a person in a room without using sensors. Here's how

While users are still waiting for Wi-Fi 6 devices to be released, the Wi-Fi Alliance is already working on the IEEE 802.11be standard, which will have the trade name of Wi-Fi 7 and will bring a lot of new features to our everyday connections. Among these innovations there could be also the possibility, for the router, to understand if there are people in a room and if they are moving.

This was confirmed by Paul Nikolich, head of the technical committee that is working on the IEEE 802.11be, in an interview with The Verge: "We want to detect the movement of people when they move from one room to another without having any sensor. The technology is also sensitive enough to detect respiration rate, because as you breathe, you change the characteristics of the radiofrequnces and the characteristics of the radio channel." The final Wi-Fi 7 standard, however, is expected in 2024, so there will still be at least a couple of years to wait before we can see such applications in our homes.

How will Wi-Fi recognize people

For a Wi-Fi system, a person is nothing more than an obstacle and interference. Similar to a wall or piece of furniture, a person obstructs the passage of radio waves and, if they move, bounces one around them. Modern routers have multiple antennas and can already detect a connected device, such as a smartphone, and modify the signal by directing it to send more power toward it. By refining this method, it's possible to track the location of a person in a room and, if needed, modify the transmission power of one or more antennas accordingly.

What's the point of tracking people with Wi-Fi

Tracking the presence of one or more people inside a room, a house or an office via Wi-Fi can have a thousand consequences, more or less useful for the user. Of course there are the downsides: inside a building we can be tracked. But there are also the positives: the connection is constantly optimized based on the number and location of people present. Then, there's a case that Nikolich himself thinks is realistic: "I have a 93-year-old mother, and if I put a Wi-Fi access point with these capabilities in her home, I'm able to tell if she's acting normal or if she's fallen."