UCL develops Wi-Fi ‘spy’ device

Posted by Karen on Sep 10, 2012 12:00:00 AM
Over the years internet connectivity has become an increasingly integral part of society – with its uses ranging from emails, voice calls and even heartbeat monitors in hospitals. So is it any surprise that seemingly impossible feats - such as seeing through brick walls via Wi-Fi - are no longer  far from reality?

Yes, it’s true. Engineers at University College London have devised a new surveillance system, known as a “passive radar” which can see through walls as thick as one foot and unlike previous prototypes is merely the size of a briefcase. The device, consisting of simply 2 antennae and a signal processing unit, tracks frequency changes in Wi-Fi signals as they reflect off moving objects, allowing us to see things on the other side of the wall. Impressively, the system cannot be detected and operates in complete stealth. The UK Ministry of Defence has already registered an interest in the device and it is likely to become a critical method of intelligence gathering through its ability to scan buildings.

However, there seems to be one flaw in what is otherwise a huge advancement in technology: it only works with moving objects. There have been claims that eventually engineers will be able to increase the sensitivity to such levels that it will actually be able to detect the ribcage rising and falling as you breathe. Should this become a reality then there are no bounds to the huge number of uses it will have in future – including more domestic purposes such as burglar alarms and also the monitoring of children and the elderly.
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