Should We Be Concerned that Scientists Can See Through Walls Using Wi-Fi?

by | Jun 7, 2017 | Blog, News/Trends | 0 comments

It’s Batman technology! In the 2008 Batman: Dark Knight movie, Batman develops a technology to scan through walls using Wi-Fi signals. Now, German scientists have found a way to do essentially the same thing — take holograms, or 3D photographs, of objects inside a room — from outside it.

“It can basically scan a room with someone’s Wi-Fi transmission,” Philipp Holl said, speaking to Business Insider. Holl, a 23-year-old undergrad, and TUM professor Friedemann Reinhard developed the concept behind the technology and published their findings in the journal Physical Review Letters.

The tech to exploit Wi-Fi’s ability to pass through walls is fairly simple. Using two antennas, they record a Wi-Fi field around a particular room. The antennas capture the intensity and the phase of the Wi-Fi field both from its source spot and the places it bounces off from. The result is a holographic image of the room that, while it’s not yet vivid, proves that the concept works in practice rather than just theory.

In the midst of privacy concerns over device cameras and microphones being used to “spy” on us, the thought of imaging technology to see through walls could be a bit unsettling. “Of course, this raises privacy questions,” Reinhard said in a press release. “However, it is rather unlikely that this process will be used for the view into foreign bedrooms in the near future. For that, you would need to go around the building with a large antenna, which would hardly go unnoticed.”

But there is a positive use for the tech. It could be used to assist in search and rescue after a major disaster such as an earthquake, avalanche or mudslide. Eventually, it could be applied to drones to map the disaster area.

The technology is still in the prototype stage and further research will be needed to refine the technology. Spying applications aside, it’s exciting to think about its possible use in life-saving applications.

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