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Technical Perspective: Is Your WiFi a Sensor?

The titanic disaster in 1912 prompted the first patent in echo-location, where sound waves would be sent under water to detect the presence of objects. Through the next decade, the technology matured into what was called SONAR in 1930, an acronym for SOund Navigation And Ranging. At the peak of World War II in 1940, in-air technologies matured fully into what the U.S. Navy called RADAR, or RAdio Direction And Ranging. The core principle in all of them is intuitive—detecting the presence and movement of objects by transmitting a signal toward them and analyzing their reflections.

Of course, these "objects" evolved through the course of history, starting from icebergs, submarines, and airplanes, to clouds, tornados, and weather conditions, to today's images of the urban environment from self-driving cars. In this evolving timeline, the next "object" is likely to be humans; and the next RADAR-capable device may already be in your home: your WiFi base station.


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