July 15th, 2021—
Near-field communication, or NFC for short, has started popping up everywhere as a way to easily pay, unlock doors, or even start a car. And now it can do one more thing: locate and track objects within a room. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Laboratory for Emerging Wireless Technologies have come up with an ingenious method to integrate NFC antennas into the fabric of pillows, furniture, and carpet to create smart environments.
Their system, which they call “TextileSense,” takes advantage of multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) antenna arrays to make aimed beams of radio waves that can be measured when they interact with a conductive object, like a hand.
The team plans on using this technology to perform various functions around the house such as allowing furniture to detect when a person is present, estimating the pose of someone who is sleeping, and letting carpet pick up gestures to control smart home devices. TextileSense can achieve accuracies of up to 3.6cm when using passive NFC tags and up to 2.9cm when detecting a human hand. All of this can be done at a max range of about 20.3cm using four software-defined radios, which helps address some of the privacy concerns associated with a system like this.
You can read more about the TextileSense system here in the Carnegie Mellon University team’s paper.