Monitoring the slightest movements with radio wave advanced sensor technology

May 4, 2015 OpenSystems Media

Revolutions in core technology invariably drive a similar revolution in applications, with the applications targeted at launch quickly a distant memory, as the industry jumps on the technology and rapidly innovates brand new applications not conceived at its inception.

Novelda AS’s XeThru technology falls into both camps, with the targeted applications exciting in themselves, but where one can quickly find themselves inspired yet lost in a sea of alternative usage scenarios; however, one particular immediate application for their technology is very close to my own heart as a new parent, baby breathing monitoring.

XeThru technology utilises radio wave technology to enable highly accurate non-contact monitoring of breathing and presence detection without requiring a line of sight – thus supporting integration hidden within walls or inside other equipment.

Day 1 targeted applications for the technology include breathing and sleep quality monitoring, from the cradle to the grave; the ability to detect mere millimetre movement in a baby’s chest to monitor breathing pattern is testament to the accuracy of the technology, which re-calibrates itself in response to changing body movements and positions on the fly.

The advanced presence detection capabilities, able to detect accurately distance away from the sensor, existence within a pre-defined zone, and count the number of bodies (and monitor their own breathing patterns) has a substantial range of potential uses. From replacing flawed PIR detection for automatic lighting or intruder sensing, to use in retail at the point of sale to dynamically adjust an individual’s experience based on understanding some of their behaviour, the possibilities really are endless.

What excited me the most is the ability for these sensors to adjust their purpose “on the fly”; they are not pre-programmed to only suit a single usage scenario – as applications evolve the installed equipment is so flexible it can be remotely updated to perform new functionality demanded of it.

We tend to think about movement detection as a positive “flag”, but equally some applications may demand the opposite, such as flags to be raised when there is no movement, or when unexpected movement is detected within a defined normal behaviour. Of course the baby and elderly breathing monitoring falls firmly into the latter camp.

The ability to configure active “zones” for proximity detection also throws up a host of possibilities for the automated home. Writing following the M2M World Congress 2015, the opinion is ubiquitous that the smartphone, whilst the only platform available today to control home “automation” (pardon the oxymoron) is actually a very poor solution – particularly when replacing simple and instant control functions such as the light switch. The ability to create active zones of detection and defining exactly what causes a positive flag, the automated home can be controlled by monitoring your behaviour – though don’t worry, clapping to turn lights on and off thankfully isn’t back on the cards!

Releasing two core modules, the Novelda XeThru range comprises of both the X2M300 module, designed for smart home automation, supporting environmental and lighting control and providing a tamper proof security system, and the X2M200, primarily designed for respiration monitoring.

Whilst baby monitoring is of course closest to my heart, I’m well aware of the benefit of this technology at the other end of the scale, for monitoring elderly relatives. The ever-connected world we live in increasingly finds us further apart physically, with vulnerable elderly relatives the ability to be satisfied that all is well remotely is increasingly vital. One could argue that CCTV-type technology is the answer there, though no one, least of all the elderly less encompassing of technology as younger generations, will accept the intrusive nature of such surveillance. Radio-wave monitoring provides a highly accurate and completely unobtrusive alternative.

With development ease and time-to-market as critical as ever in today’s industry, the Inspiration Kit is designed to enable developers to rapidly proof-of-concept applications is purposefully built to enable even those without any electronic expertise to simply evaluate. “With these sensors you can really add a sixth sense into a multitude of products for health, comfort and safety”, Kjetil Meisal, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Novelda AS.

Personally intrigued in the real-time baby breathing monitoring potential as much as I am professionally, I requested I physically evaluate the technology and Novelda AS happily obliged.

The development kit was easy to assemble and within minutes I was able to monitor my 4 month old baby Jake’s breathing patterns, distance from the sensor, and view in real time when the sensor was unable to track baby’s breathing patterns due to excessive movement. Initially his movement was a little frustrating, as I was so keen to review the highly accurate graphical representation of his chest movements, but of course one must remember this sub-application for this technology is designed to alert parents if baby stops breathing – this scenario is nigh on impossible if he is wriggling around – quite the opposite in fact!

The XeThru Explorer development kit is the perfect platform to evaluate this exciting technology, XeThru have set up a developer’s community to enable rapid sharing of information and experiences. I myself took the liberty of recording a YouTube video showing the technology in action. Exciting times ahead indeed, especially for new parents such as myself.

Rory Dear, European Editor/Technical Contributor
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