the amazing technology of Orange to monitor a house

Orange is developing an original technology to detect movements by analyzing disturbances in Wi-Fi waves. A device that could be installed in the Livebox to monitor a home.

Connected homes are becoming more and more popular, but they have their share of constraints! We must equip ourselves with connected devices, which must also be compatible within the same ecosystem – even if the Matter standard will come to simplify the deal –, and which are quite invasive in our privacy. In addition, when it comes to security, devices such as cameras or motion detectors have a limited detection range. But a much simpler solution might be at hand. Indeed, Orange is developing a technology called Wi-Fi Sensing, which is able to analyze changes in the distribution of Wi-Fi waves within the home. It was during the Research and Innovation Fair, from October 18 to 20, 2022 on the Orange Gardens campus in Châtillon, that Orange presented this new project.

How does Wi-Fi Sensing work?

Wi-Fi, now essential in homes, is usually used to transmit digital data between different devices using radio waves. As for ripples on the water, which move and break against a stone or an animal, their diffusion varies according to the obstacles – those who have thick walls are also quite annoyed. Thus, if a person enters a room, this will modify the properties of the radio link – also called channel state information (CSI) – between the transmitter – a box or a router such as a Livebox, in the case of Orange – and the receiver – a device connected to Wi-Fi, such as a smartphone or a computer. Wi-Fi Sensing technology analyzes these changes to detect physical characteristics of the environment and, when something moves, it interprets it as movement. Also, Orange is trying to use it to develop a surveillance system for the home, via a future software update for its recent Liveboxes.

© Wireless Broadband Alliance

At the Salon, the operator reconstructed an apartment equipped with a Livebox, a connected television and a Google Nest Hub – there must be at least one device connected to the box. As the project is still in development, the software needed to analyze Wi-Fi frames is installed on a router – but, in the future, it should be directly included in the Internet box. The data is then transmitted to the user via an application installed on his smartphone. The latter also allows you to indicate whether you are at home or not and which rooms to monitor, but also provides a summary of the movements recorded in each of them and a visualization of the disturbances in real time. And, of course, once the application is set up, the user receives a notification as soon as someone enters the room. But if you are disturbed each time a movement is detected, without being able to sort between the cat walking around and an intruder for example, this would not be of much interest. This problem of false positives led Orange to use artificial intelligence (AI). The waves will detect the intensity of the movement – ​​by measuring the size of the moving object and its duration – and the algorithm will determine whether or not there is someone in the room.

Wi-Fi Sensing: monitoring that respects privacy?

On paper, Wi-Fi Sensing has many advantages. The technology makes it possible to monitor without having to buy additional equipment, such as cameras or motion detectors which, casually, still represent a small sum. In addition, as Wi-Fi is able to “see” through objects and walls, this technology is able to detect movements without having a blind spot – unlike a camera with motion detection for example. And it is also less intrusive since it does not recognize and identify people. Uses other than security are also envisaged. For example, it could allow you to adjust the temperature of the heating and the lighting of the room depending on whether or not someone is present. Similarly, by developing it further, this technology could help with home support, by detecting falls and analyzing body data, such as the rhythm of breathing. Researchers would like to push Wi-Fi Sensing even further – but that won’t happen for a while – in order, for example, to analyze crowds via their number and their movements, to understand sign language or even to spot people via biometrics. But, in this case, some of the data collected would fall under the definition of data considered sensitive by Article 9 of the GDPR.

In any case, Wi-Fi Sensing should not arrive immediately on Orange Liveboxes since the technology is still in the state of an innovation project. It is, however, already present at Linksys, a company that markets wired and wireless routers as well as traditional or USB-based network cards, which uses the existing mesh Wi-Fi system and compatible smart home devices to detect movement. Similarly, Verizon Fios, one of the largest consumer broadband Internet service providers in the United States, has just launched a new Wi-Fi motion detection service called “Home Awareness”. Finally, the company Cognitive Systems markets solutions using this technology.

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