Wi-Fi signals could keep tabs on health of aging family members, MSU exploring possibilities

Posted at 8:09 AM, Aug 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-31 11:22:36-04

There may be other uses for Wi-Fi signals that don’t involve surfing the web.

An assistant professor at Michigan State University's College of Engineering, Mi Zhang, is set to begin exploring ways those signals may be able to keep tabs on the health of aging loved ones.

Zhang tells 7 Action News it’s all about re-purposing Wi-Fi into a sensing technology.

"When a person is moving around, that movement actually affects the signal," said Zhang. 

Zhang says studying changes and patterns in the signals could indicate different life actions like when a person is sleeping, walking or typing on their computer.

Smart algorithms may also be able to detect if a loved one is slowing down in their movements, a sign that health may be on the decline, according to Zhang. 

He notes that cameras, while a helpful tool to watch for red flags, are a bit invasive.

"No one wants to be monitored," said Zhang. "This would replace the camera with a privacy conservative method to do the same thing." 

The National Science Foundation just awarded Zhang a $171,600 grant to put his ideas to the test over the next two years.

He says one of the challenges in the project will be leveraging the technology with existing routers, eliminating the need for people to spend more on extra hardware. 

You can read more about Zhang's work here.