The NSF has funded our research project "Advanced Radio Frequency (RF)-based Environmental Monitoring Systems" to be performed collaboratively at Georgia Tech and the University of Utah. Prof. Neal Patwari and the SPAN lab will conduct the research at the University of Utah, and Prof. Gregory D. Durgin and the Propagation Lab will conduct the research at Georgia Tech.
The award is an investigation in the science of temporal fading as it is useful for new radio frequency (RF) environmental monitoring (REM) systems. Temporal fading is the change in the radio channel between a transmitter and receiver, for example, a fluctuating "number of bars" or signal strength between a laptop and access point, even when neither are moving. Past research in temporal fading treats it only as a problem that degrades wireless communication. Emerging research has shown that temporal fading can be exploited to locate, automatically recognize the activity or gesture, and monitor the health of people in the vicinity of a wireless network. These localization, recognition, and monitoring systems are called RF-based environment monitoring (REM) systems. Improvements in REM technologies could aid in the design of police and search-and-rescue systems that locate breathing people in dangerous or collapsed buildings. As another example, REM technologies deployed in a home could detect falls and detect signs of cognitive or physical decline as part of an aging-in-place sensor system. REM technologies could allow people to diagnose disordered sleeping via wireless devices (e.g., cell phones) left on their bedside. Finally, REM systems could revolutionize indoor and outdoor security systems, helping to protect areas and buildings which are difficult to monitor with existing technologies. To date, no fundamental research in temporal fading mechanisms has been performed to support REM applications. Research in this project considers temporal fading and seeks to establish how it is affected by the movements of people in the environment so that it can be exploited for environmental monitoring.