Wi-Fi router keeps elderly safe from home falls

MELBOURNE: Wi-Fi signals that get into every corner of your house may one day be able to get under your skin, quite literally.

At the Consumer Electronics Show here in Las Vegas, Origin Wireless AI said it has figured out how to read the pulse of occupants of a household, just by measuring the minute perturbations in Wi-Fi signals that people create when they move through the signal.

Origin Wireless AI, a US-based startup which supplies artificial intelligence software to the popular home Wi-Fi brand Linksys, has already developed software which can detect when people enter a house, which rooms they walk to, and what their breathing rate is, just from analysing the interference that people create between any two Wi-Fi points, such as between a home router and a smart speaker.

At CES, it demonstrated technology that can detect when a householder has fallen down, and then automatically switches to breath detection mode the moment it detects a fall, all through Wi-Fi.

If the householder is elderly, the technology almost instantly alerts anyone listed as their carer that there’s been a fall, and then within 10 to 15 seconds it notifies the carer with information about the householder’s breathing.

“It could be the longest ten seconds of your life,” admitted Spencer Maid, Chief Business Development Officer at Origin. Though he noted that it would take most people 10 seconds to pull out their phone and call up the app, so the question of whether the elderly person who fell was still breathing, and was breathing at a healthy rate, would already be answered by the time they went to look.

For the most part, the technology simply analyses existing Wi-Fi signals that are floating through the ether of the home.

But ordinary Internet of Things (IoT) devices can’t be pinged by the software frequently enough to be used for accurate and instantaneous fall detection, and so the US-based startup was forced to build a separate fall detection device, that still uses ordinary Wi-Fi to detect motion, but that can supply enough data for the AI software to work out if someone has fallen.

One such device would need to be placed in every room where a fall was likely, an Origin spokesman said.

Still, ordinary ‘internet of things” devices can be made to pull off some remarkable feats. Ordinary Wi-Fi can detect your breathing rate while you’re sleeping, just by using artificial intelligence to look for perturbations in the Wi-Fi between two Wi-Fi-connected light globes such as LIFX or Philips Hue globes on ether side of your bed.

“Just like Wi-Fi signals don’t need line-of-sight to go through walls, they can go right through sheets, right through comforters and all that type of stuff.

“We can see through blankets and night shirts and jackets and tee shirts,” said Mr Maid.

Eventually the technology will see through skin and detect heart rates.

“Down the road we can (do that). But that’s a long way out,” he said.

“Right now we’re pinging Internet of Things devices, whether it’s a Google Home or an Echo Dot, whatever it might be, that can detect motion. It can let you know that your mum is moving around, that she got out of bed, she went into the bathroom, she went into the kitchen, she sat on the couch for six hours, then went to bed again,” he said.

“That’s a day in the life of my mum, by the way,” he said.

Origin is also working on more mundane tasks for its Wi-Fi-based motion detection system. Here at CES, it also demonstrated a home automation system that turns on lights when it detects someone has entered a room, as quickly as 0.3 seconds after they enter.

Linksys currently has exclusive rights to the Origin Wireless AI technology, and has already released a version of its Velop router that can be used for basic motion detection, alerting householders when someone has entered their home.

The more advanced features, such as home automation and breathing detection, should be added a free firmware update by the end of the year. Fall detection units would also be available this year, a company spokesperson said.