The present technology of smart homes features multiple systems that can interact using the Internet. From manipulating common appliances to regulating heating system from a remote area, the applications of the “Internet of Things (IoT)” is growing rapidly.
At the same time, 2 researchers, Ming-Chun Huang and Soumyajit Mandal, both Assistant Professors of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in Case Western Reserve University are experimenting on a different system. Their method utilizes new sensors that will be able to perceive sounds, vibrations, movements and even alterations in the electrical field of a house. These sensors could be placed in the walls and floor will be able to capture someone's activity. “We are using principles similar to those of the human ear, where vibrations are picked up and our algorithms decipher them to determine your specific movements. That’s why we call it the ‘Internet of Ears,” Prof. Huang stated while he admits that this technology is about a decade away.
Prof. Mandal explains how the sensors can manipulate the electrical field of a room in order to perceive the presense of people. “There is actually a constant 60 Hz electrical field all around us, and because people are somewhat conductive, they short out the field just a little. So, by measuring the disturbance in that field, we are able to determine their presence, or even their breathing, even when there are no vibrations associated with sound,” he said.
The researchers elaborated about the benefits of the method that they suggest. First of all, the sensors will provide the ability to measure a building's human occupancy which will be critical in cases of emergencies like hurricanes or severe earthquakes. “This hasn’t really been explored as far as we’ve seen, but we know that humans create a dynamic load on buildings, especially in older buildings. In collaboration with our colleague YeongAe Heo in Civil Engineering , we are trying to predict if there is going to be structural damage because of the increased weight or load based on the number of people on the floor or how they are distributed on that floor,” Prof. Huand stated. Moreover, houses will be more energy efficient as the elecrtical and heating systems will adjust to the location of the humans at a given time.