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MIT Researchers Can Take Your Pulse, Right Through the Walls 125

Posted by timothy
from the proof-of-life dept.
An anonymous reader writes MIT researchers develop technology that can monitor people's breathing and heart rate through walls. 'Their latest report demonstrates that they can now detect gestures as subtle as the rise and fall of a person's chest. From that, they can determine a person's heart rate with 99 percent accuracy. The research could be used for health-tracking apps, baby monitors, and for the military and law enforcement.' The report describes how they extended their through-wall technology to up to five users and how they track vital signs.
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MIT Researchers Can Take Your Pulse, Right Through the Walls

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm pretty sure a baby can be monitored through a wall by using a window, but does it run on Linux?

  • Good, the doctors can take my vitals while waiting in the waiting-room to cut time.

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @01:41AM (#47239261) Homepage

    This will probably be a feature in new TV sets. Of course, all this data will be transmitted to advertisers.

    (On the other hand, it would be great for gyms and for workout programs.)

    • by kheldan (1460303)
      Simple solution to that little problem, my friend: don't buy a so-called 'smart' TV.
    • by chihowa (366380) *

      (On the other hand, it would be great for gyms and for workout programs.)

      It really wouldn't, though. Just like the case with health-tracking apps and baby monitors, if the target of the monitoring is interested in being monitored there are cheaper and more reliable methods than this. The prime applications for this involve involuntary monitoring, probably law enforcement for the most part.

  • by mbone (558574) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @01:42AM (#47239267)

    Aluminum foil will nicely block the 5.46-7.25 GHz (4-5 cm) radio waves used for this radar (as would a typical screen door). I wonder who will be the first to market RF-opaque sheet-rock, which would technically easy to make.

    • The Simpsons did it.

      Actually, many companies have RF blocking screens, wallboards, etc. but the price has been high. However, here is a link to a French company that offered RF blocking wallpaper two years ago. http://www.linformaticien.com/... [linformaticien.com] (use Google translate if needed)

      ~~
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        However, here is a link to a French company that offered RF blocking wallpaper two years ago

        LOL ... so, it's tin-foil hats, but in patterns?

        Why does this whole thing remind me of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six ... where if you had two antennas you could triangulate people and use it for military purposes?

        • by riker1384 (735780)
          The heartbeat sensor thing in Rainbow Six was based on a real product Clancy had seen, that turned out to be a fraud.
    • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @02:26AM (#47239349)

      It's a losing battle, unfortunately. We can't remember one simple 2048-bit private key, we emit all varieties of radiation, we leave a literal trail of identifiable chemical signatures, we're susceptible to an enormous variety of attacks, have only a vague notion of what's going on around us (or, for that matter, inside us), have predictable needs and habits, share important details of our lives with others, and last but not least, are frequently willing to trade our privacy for a little convenience or money.

      In short: we're loud and messy, and trying to make a human invisible to the technology of today and tomorrow is ultimately futile. It's like DRM; the most you can do is make it slightly harder and impose laws declaring the water should stay in the sieve.

      Hopefully we'll wise up someday and stop caring about the pointless minutiae of each others' lives, and decide that as long as technological advance means we're heading for a panopticon anyway, it needs to be owned by all the people.

      Not holding my breath, though.

      • >Hopefully we'll wise up someday and stop caring about the pointless minutiae of each others' lives

        We've been scrutinising the minutiae of others lives for millennia; ever since we evolved into social grouping, with all its hierarchical dynamics. It's not going to stop any time soon.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I wonder who will be the first to market RF-opaque sheet-rock, which would technically easy to make.

      It has existed [usg.com] for some time. [nationalgypsum.com] Very popular with new banks and HQ buildings over the last decade. You need to install a repeater to get phone coverage inside or execs never approve it.

    • Aluminum foil will nicely block the 5.46-7.25 GHz (4-5 cm) radio waves used for this radar (as would a typical screen door). I wonder who will be the first to market RF-opaque sheet-rock, which would technically easy to make.

      As it would block a great many other things.

      Here's a hint, folks: metal-backed insulation has been pretty standard for many years. As long as you make sure it's all in contact, also using metal (or metal-clad) doors and metal-screened windows will also give you an effective Faraday cage.

      But given that in the US, even use of commonly-available infrared-scanning equipment by law enforcement requires a warrant, I doubt very much that even more intrusive scanning would be ruled legal for LEO without a war

      • by sjames (1099) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @04:12AM (#47239527) Homepage

        But given that in the US, even use of commonly-available infrared-scanning equipment by law enforcement requires a warrant, I doubt very much that even more intrusive scanning would be ruled legal for LEO without a warrant.

        So they'll use it anyway and then use 'parallel construction' to convict you.

        • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @05:01AM (#47239609)

          So they'll use it anyway and then use 'parallel construction' to convict you.

          Nah. Been tried.

          Multiple cases, in California, New York, and other jurisdictions have all found the same way: it's illegal. The police can fuck off.

          A few years ago, ex-Texas-Ranger Barry Cooper and his fellow Kop Busters heard that IR scanning was happening in NYC, despite it having been ruled illegal without a warrant. They rented an apartment, bugged and alarmed it, rigged it up with an artificial Christmas tree and some grow lights (curtains all closed), and walked away. (But not far... they stayed out of the way in a nearby building.)

          When the cops busted in, they were greeted with automatic video cameras and a big sign that said, "You guys are BUSTED!"

          The video was even posted on the Internet. The PD got in trouble with the State.

          • by sjames (1099)

            They have gotten a lot sneakier now. That's how the DEA acts on NSA tips that come from illegal surveillance.

            They take the info and then set a trap where they have the 'astounding luck' to stumble upon the evidence.

            • They have gotten a lot sneakier now. That's how the DEA acts on NSA tips that come from illegal surveillance.

              They take the info and then set a trap where they have the 'astounding luck' to stumble upon the evidence.

              You don't get it, do you?

              You are talking about faking of probable cause. In an honest court, and if you have a non-corrupt defender, they have to SHOW probable cause in court. It isn't legal to just say that probable cause may have existed! The have to GET A WARRANT based on PROBABLE CAUSE, BEFORE they can scan. If they pretend they got the evidence some other way, they have to prove it, and show a logical chain of events.

              In any kind of honest court system, anything else would catch them up before the

              • by drinkypoo (153816)

                You are talking about faking of probable cause. In an honest court, and if you have a non-corrupt defender,

                So we're fucked, then.

              • by russotto (537200)

                You don't get it, do you?

                It's you who don't get it.

                You are talking about faking of probable cause. In an honest court, and if you have a non-corrupt defender, they have to SHOW probable cause in court. It isn't legal to just say that probable cause may have existed! The have to GET A WARRANT based on PROBABLE CAUSE, BEFORE they can scan. If they pretend they got the evidence some other way, they have to prove it, and show a logical chain of events.

                Parallel construction involves obtaining the evidence by any

                • Parallel construction involves obtaining the evidence by any means (illegally), then using that knowledge to manufacture a plausible probable cause, which can then be used to get the evidence (that the cops know is there through their illegal means) legally.

                  I know how it works. Except the "legally" part, because it isn't legal. It's just a pretense of legality, because they didn't actually have the probable cause.

                  My point was that courts as a whole do not like people lying to them. Even the police, and even government. When they're caught out, as inevitably they will be (though not in every case of course), there will be repercussions.

                  Unless they do an exceptional job of "parallel construction", there is a very good chance they will get caught. I do ackn

              • by sjames (1099)

                Police drone scans every home in the neighborhood. Oh, look! This one looks interesting. Send a patyrol car to snoop around. Perhaps he can hear some screaming and do a welfare check.

                Now, prove they DIDN'T just happen to be patrolling there and think they heard screaming.

                Note trhat the DEA has been doing this with NSA tips for a while now. The cat is out of the bag now, and the courts have done absolutely NOTHING about it. They haven't even given DEA and NSA an order to tell them which trials involved 'para

                • Police drone scans every home in the neighborhood.

                  Police aren't allowed to "drone scan" in my state or the surrounding states. If it can't be seen from the perspective of a normal passerby (in a car or on foot) outside the property, they need a warrant to see it. Without a warrant, or probable cause, it's not even legal for them to stand on a ladder and look over the back fence. That's the truth. I had reason to research state privacy laws a couple of years ago.

                  Technically, "the property" that can't be invaded or "droned over" is the "curtilage", which

                  • by sjames (1099)

                    You may be surprised to know that many police departments break the law on a regular basis and then cover it up. Very occasionally they get caught. Still less often, something is done about it. It isn't hard for them to get away with it since mostly, the people with the authority to do anything about it would rather not know.

                    It doesn't matter if it's legal or not. Many will do it anyway. Then they will invent a (barely) plausible legal way they 'just happened to stumble over the evidence'. It is documented

      • I should add that if you do it properly, building such a cage will render you immune to cell-phone or radio reception inside your house. But you can use commonly and cheaply available repeaters to fix that.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      There are ways to embed higher frequency signals in a signal that is impedance matched for the target, allowing the non-impedance matched signals to pass at near full strength.

      Shielding is useless against an adaptable radio source (i.e AI driven).

    • by AndyKron (937105)
      This isn't going to screw up the FPV camera on my spy drone, is it?
    • Batman has been way ahead of you guys for years. The Batcave is lined with lead just for this kind of thing!
  • those pesky photons are at it again

  • Horseshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dcollins (135727) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @01:58AM (#47239299) Homepage

    "The research could be used for health-tracking apps, baby monitors, and for the military and law enforcement."

    Yeah, lead with the health-tracking and baby monitors, which actually benefits the subject, such that the subject would happily allow a monitor right next to them, and thus "through the walls" monitoring will never, ever get used.

    Bury the bit about using it shoot people who break a drug law, or a resister of some foreign tyranny, in a way that they never have a chance to see it coming, which is how this will actually get used.

    Ugh.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They already make tech that can see a persons thermal signature thru walls.. This recent tech is probably from those devices. I don't have a citation for the thermal device but if you look around the internet is should be pretty easy to find several articles/stories on it. If they were using this type of tech to kill someone they would already be doing it, or have been doing it, only no one has said anything about it.

      If they were, I am sure there is some contract with the maker stipulating that only certain

      • What benefit is there to shooting people based on their heat signatures? You have the distinct problem of not getting confirmation of your target before taking the shot.

        A lot of people imagine all sorts of bad things that can happen with technologies like this. Most of it's nonsense because it doesn't actually make things easier. If someone wants to shoot you, they can just break down your door and do it, use a predator drone, or snipe through a window using traditional SWAT tactics.

    • by TheLink (130905)

      The foreign countries might already have similar tech, maybe even years ago:
      http://www.rslab.ru/downloads/... [rslab.ru]
      http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl... [ieee.org]
      http://repository.tudelft.nl/a... [tudelft.nl]
      https://encrypted.google.com/b... [google.com]

      • by Nutria (679911)

        The TU Delft paper explicitly states Detection of respiratory movement of a person in laboratory conditions has been demonstrated.

    • Can you imagine if they actually did make it available for through-wall baby monitors? How long until parents accidentally swing the camera a bit wide and realize they can see inside their neighbor's home? How many will buy it just for that use? "Baby Monitors Used by Voyeurs" is nearly as bad a headline as what we saw with that Harry Potter vibrating broom toy that was allegedly popular with mothers a few years back.

    • The problem is for every bad aspect of technologies like these, there are many good aspects. A technology like this could have huge benefits for people exercising, for instance, or concerned about their health.

      Sure, if you really dislike all this technology stuff you could go live in a log cabin in the woods, living off the land and avoiding all technology. The government will even subsidize your stay with food stamps.

      But the cost of such a move is just to costly; the solution, clearly, is finding a way t

      • by PPH (736903)

        A technology like this could have huge benefits for people exercising, for instance, or concerned about their health.

        Not really. If I'm concerned about my health, I'm more than happy to strap a monitor on. If its my baby, a mattress pad with sensors should suffice. Or a monitor above the crib.

        I can't think of one good use for a through the wall heart monitor unless its to put a heart in some cross-hairs.

        • Have you ever used a monitor? Big bulky and uncomfortable. If the gym of the future can tell me how hard I was exercising and give me a custom tailored experience without having to use a monitor, it could be nice.

          • by PPH (736903)

            Have you ever used a monitor?

            Yes. I have one.

            Big bulky and uncomfortable.

            Not really. A thin strap that velcros around the chest. The sensor part is barely wider than the strap.

            without having to use a monitor, it could be nice.

            But through a wall? Is that necessary?

          • If the monitor is big and bulky you are using a CRT. That's not going to measure your heartrate.
            Modern heartrate sensors are definitely noticable, but big and bulky they are not.

    • by telchine (719345)

      "The research could be used for health-tracking apps, baby monitors, and for the military and law enforcement."

      The Google Maps cars could use it to automatically update your Google Fit account whist their stealing your wi-fi data and photographing your front door! How's that for progress!

  • So, who funded this? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mbone (558574) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @02:02AM (#47239307)

    I have read the paper [18.7.29.232] and thing that is noticeable for an academic paper is that there appears to be no acknowledgement of the source of funding, which leads me to wonder who is paying for this and why they want that link kept quiet.

    • need a warrant to search rooms , never entered?

      walk down hall in hotel, see whose heart rate elevated.

      spy on spouse remotely. Having an affair?

      "No where to hide" . Criminals can use it too. See if place is empty before breaking and entering....

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I read the paper too. Then I googled the authors. First author is a Ph.D. student funded my Microsoft. Last author/Advisor/lab leader appears to be someone who researches new network protocol. I don't think the funding source nor intention of the researchers is nefarious, even if others may use it for those purposes...

  • The kind that can stop a not too bright light source from illuminating the next room, aka drywall? Or a real one?

  • Depending on how well it can separate subjects, this could be quite useful in an airport for (non-descriminative) screening.

    You've got one guy walking through whose heartrate is abnormally high, there's a decent change he's up to something inappropriate (smuggling, terrorism). The other possibility is that he has a fear of flying, but secondary screening should hopefully be able to determine that.

    Even better, have an airport security person walk by him or just look him in the eye and smile, then see if his

    • Re:Airports (Score:5, Informative)

      by m00sh (2538182) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @03:06AM (#47239403)

      Depending on how well it can separate subjects, this could be quite useful in an airport for (non-descriminative) screening.

      You've got one guy walking through whose heartrate is abnormally high, there's a decent change he's up to something inappropriate (smuggling, terrorism). The other possibility is that he has a fear of flying, but secondary screening should hopefully be able to determine that.

      Even better, have an airport security person walk by him or just look him in the eye and smile, then see if his heart-rate goes up even more. Sudden jump in vitals... bingo!

      I'm pretty sure the smuggler who figures out how to keep his heart rate low can suddenly be super effective. Then, this will give the incentive to create methods to learn how to control your heart-rate and it will be soon mastered by many smugglers.

      However, a normal person who has a high heart rate for whatever reason (a text from an old girlfriend, a cryptic e-mail from the boss etc) will be endlessly harassed.

      The pros will get around it because they will encounter it everyday. The only people who will suffer is the ordinary people who will encounter it occasionally and have no way to know what to do and get fucked by the elaborate system setup for terrorists.

      • by nurb432 (527695)

        However, a normal person who has a high heart rate for whatever reason (a text from an old girlfriend, a cryptic e-mail from the boss etc) will be endlessly harassed.

        Or just afraid of flying, or not in good shape/medical condition so just walking raises their blood rate/pressure and breathing...

        The harassment will just make it worse...

    • by sjames (1099)

      Or, of course, he might have run from the cab to the security checkpoint because he's running late...

  • The research could be used for health-tracking apps, baby monitors, and for the military and law enforcement.'

    Of course, always for the military and law enforcement. The ethos of technology development in this country, spreading to the world, increasingly sickens me.

  • Anyone else reminded of Splinter Cell, where Sam can track people's "life signs" through his googles?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Yes, "law enforcement", who aren't at all obsessed with lots and lots of SWAT teams and just short or even outright military hardware to make war on the populace. Who obviously need more technology to spy on, er, keep us all safe by carefully tracking our every move. Yes that's it. No safety without observation. No freedom without safety. Spying on you for your freedom!

    Good call, MIT.

  • Utter bullshit (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    As a medic, I can tell you there is not a direct correlation between pulse and respiratory rate between different individuals. While pulse and respirations may generally be proportional in any one individual, there's no way they can accurately infer a pulse from knowing respiration rates, since what drives one heart to beat at 60 bpm, while he breaths at 12 rpm, might drive another to beat at 75 bpm, but respire at only 12. It all depends on the relative efficiencies of the cardiac muscle and lungs.

    If thi

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Make sure to buy the heartbeat sensor before deployment!

  • So now robot killing machines can check to see how agitated they've made you, right before they kill you. Nice.
  • by acx2 (2798695) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @07:18AM (#47239795)
    Research in tracking heart rate and respiration using radio waves has been happening for decades. Technology has progressed to the point where modern devices can detect a heartbeat through 30 feet of rubble or 20 feet of solid concrete: http://www.dhs.gov/detecting-h... [dhs.gov] . Chapter 2 of Jonathan S Burnham's 2009 MIT master's thesis seems to have a nice historical overview: http://hdl.handle.net/1721.1/6... [handle.net] . There probably are novel things about the MIT technology mentioned in the original post (e.g. lower power RF or better separation of individuals), but there is nothing new about tracking heart rate and respiratory rate through walls.
    • Perhaps this was never done at MIT before, and that is the news?
      Speaking seriously, I feel sorry for MIT with all the nonsense headlines like this one, ridiculing the school over the past few years. It almost feels like someone is on a vendetta against MIT.
      Sure, the team might have done something new (didn't read TFP), all kudos to them for that. But was this truly the best thing since sliced bread?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Radar work performed in Italy can see the movement of the heart directly:

    http://www.rslab.ru/seminar/reference/2005_12_20/Staderini,%20UWB_Radar_in_Medicine.pdf

    This is very old tech...like 1960's or '50s.

  • What do you think this technology will be used for?

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      continuing the War on We the People, and attacking brown skinned people in other countries to line pockets and gain power

  • I can definitely tell when she has an elevated heart rate, not to mention the timing of each thrust. No advanced technology required.

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