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Wi-Fi Signals May Be Used To Track Your Movement Inside Your House

Illustration for article titled Wi-Fi Signals May Be Used To Track Your Movement Inside Your House

Neal Patwari of the University of Utah discovered that breathing affects Wi-Fi signal strength. Chest expansion during a breath bends the wireless signals and they lose some power. This slight drop can be measured and used to calculate your breathing rate.


Measuring someone's breathing rate is helpful, but the use of this technology as a spy tool is where things get interesting. In an earlier study, Patwari discovered that any movement can affect wireless signal strength and these changes in strength can be use to track your location within a room. He also discovered that these small changes can measured even when the Wi-Fi signal passes through a wall and travels into another room.

So a snoop who wanted to spy on you could theoretically setup a wireless network outside your house, measure signal strength changes and track your movement inside your house. It's supposedly sensitive enough to detect whether you are standing up, sitting or lying down. [Cornell University via New Scientist; Image from Jiri Hera/Shutterstock]

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Once again, Life imitates Art. Longish, but read:

"The sand at the surf line has been washed flat. A small child's footprints wander across it, splaying like gardenia blossoms on thin shafts. The sand looks like a geometric plane until a sheet of ocean grazes it. Then small imperfections are betrayed by swirls in the water. Those swirls in turn carve the sand. The ocean is a Turing machine, the sand is its tape; the water reads the marks in the sand and sometimes erases them and sometimes carves new ones with tiny currents that are themselves a response to the marks. Plodding through the surf, Waterhouse strikes deep craters in the wet sand that are read by the ocean. Eventually the ocean erases them, but in the process its state has been changed, the pattern of its swirls have been altered. Waterhouse imagines that the disturbance might somehow propagate across the Pacific and into some super-secret Nipponese surveillance device made of bamboo tubes and chrysanthemum leaves. Nip listeners would know that Waterhouse had walked that way. In turn, the water swirling around Waterhouse's feet carries information about Nip propeller design and the deployment of their fleets — if only he had the wit to read it. The chaos of the waves, gravid with encrypted data, mocks him." - Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon, 1999

IMHO, Cryptonomicon is one of the greatest novels of the 20th century.