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Greetings, Dr. Home Hub: Future WiFi routers could listen to your heartbeat

Throw away your fitness tracker now – the wireless routers of the future could scan your vital signs the moment you walk through the door. 

Routers of the future could be configured to act as smart stethoscopes, using WiFi to discreetly monitor heart rates and breathing patterns. 

The Vital-Radio system, developed by students at MIT’s Katabi Lab (a division of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab) claims to be able to monitor people’s vital signs without the need for any peripheral sensors – just the radio spectrum. 

The Katabi Lab team claim that the system is almost as accurate as conventional systems. As it doesn’t require patients to wear any monitors, it could do away with the need for surgery visits as well as disrupt the fitness tracker market

Public WiFi access points could scan you as you run past. When you walk through the door, your BT Home Hub could sync your post-workout heart rate to the cloud automatically.

According to the New Scientist, Vital-Radio works in a similar fashion to radar. It transmits signals using a part of the radio spectrum similar to the bands used for WiFi (2.4GHz and 5GHz) then watches the reflected signals for imprints that indicate life. Vital-Radio then measures how long it takes reflected waves to return. 
Each object in the vicinity will reflect the signals with a slightly different return time depending on distance from the antenna. 

As well as monitoring people’s vital signs throughout the home the Katabi Lab controversially claim that future routers could also be tweaked to read people’s emotions. 

It’s something that BBC has worked on in tandem with start-up company CrowdEmotions, as has Microsoft. While these projects are more interested in finding out how amused/scared/enraged people get when watching Top Gear or playing Grand Theft Auto, it’s more likely that Vital-Radio will mainly be used for health applications, at least initially. 

Whatever Vital-Radio ends up being used for it’s unlikely that it’ll be coming to a Home Hub near you anytime soon. So maybe you shouldn’t ditch your just-bought Apple Watch straight away

 

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