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AI tracking motion through walls: Scary!

by Beth Divine 1 Sep 2018

Recent news reports state that Artificial Intelligence is being used in video games and similar simulated scenarios to track the movement of people through walls. The process uses Wi-Fi signals and RFID technology. Essentially, AI programs are shown multiple examples of people walking and moving around a home, and at the same time, the AI monitors the reflections generated in the frequencies of the RFID and W-Fi fields. To put it into a more understandable concept, imagine a home as being a swimming pool and the water is the RFID and Wi-Fi fields. As a person wades through the water, they can be seen directly – but they can also be tracked using the ripples that they send through the water. An understanding of each movement and the corresponding ripple (a dive creates a big splashy ripple, stealthy  wading a very subtle one, and swimming produces a line of regular wavelets that show directionality and even speed) can help someone to tell where the person is an what they are doing – even when they can no longer see the person in the water any more.

In much the way described above, AI uses minute changes in the RFID fields to track where a person is and even tell what they are doing – and it can do it through walls!

Most people will instantly be horrified by the idea: the thought of being watched is an unpleasant one, the thought of being unable to hide behind a door or wall to escape scrutiny is even more so. While artificial intelligence is not a person, and computers do not judge (not yet, anyway!) the thought of being surveilled in the privacy of our homes is creepy – and that is before we even consider the possibility of hackers: those who might try to gain control of the artificial intelligence. Even being able to access the AI’s database and perhaps viewing recordings, might give unscrupulous people enough information to break into a home, or to cause mischief or embarrassment to innocent people. Bearing all this in mind, is there any reason why AI should be taught to track people when they don’t necessarily want to be seen.

However, this innovation is being developed by the medical profession so that elderly people can be monitored while permitting them to stay in their own homes for longer. While this is admirable, the installation of such a system could potentially make them into targets as the possession of the system immediately announces the vulnerability of those living in that address…

The work is still in development and may not work as announced when it is complete. If it does, here’s hoping that there are some checks and balances built-in to prevent the system being misused or abused.