Tokyo team wants to use Wi-Fi and water to make monitoring crowd size easy

A microchip monitor tracks the number of people in a room by measuring how Wi-FI signals bounce off the water in human bodies.

wi monitor wireless networking

Wi-Monitor uses existing wireless infrastructure to track how many people are in a room and make social distancing easier.

Image: Wi-Monitor

A group of entrepreneurs from Tokyo wants Wi-Fi to do more than just connect people to the internet. Wi-Monitor uses existing wireless infrastructure to track how many people are in a room and make social distancing easier.

Wi-Fi signals bounce off water and tracking those bounces can reveal how many people are in a particular space. The bounces increase as more people enter the space, which could trigger an alert to warn business owners or individuals of increasing crowd size. Wi-Monitor is a microchip that connects to existing Wi-Fi infrastructure and uses machine learning to track the number of people in a certain space.

Takekazu Kitagishi, Yusuke Saski and Masahiro Matsui started the company based on their work together in the Koshizuka Lab at the University of Tokyo. The research theme of the lab is the social implementation of artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things . The team is working on a dashboard that would collect this information for monitoring.

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The company said in a press release that using this tactic to measure crowd size preserves privacy as compared to using cameras for the same task. Also, the solution has the potential to be cheaper to implement because it integrates into existing Wi-Fi installations as opposed to requiring entirely new infrastructure. 

The team showed off its product at SxSW 2021, which is a virtual event this year. Wi-Monitor was part of the Todai To Texas program at the University of Tokyo. The project brings new initiatives and startups to Austin for the event each year.  

Kitagishi founded Wi-Monitor and studied public health as an undergraduate student. He is currently studying computer science in a graduate degree program at the University of Tokyo. According to a press release from the company, he was motivated by the pandemic to create a  low-cost and easy-to-implement solution to help city leaders and business owners adjust to the new demands of living with COVID-19.

Companies are looking for ways to monitor and enforce social distancing. Cameras are a popular solution, as Brandon Vigliarolo explained in an article for TechRepublic. Peachtree Corners is testing artificial intelligence software to give security cameras the ability to tell if people are violating COVID-19 regulations. Cawamo claims its software can measure crowd size and spot individuals who are not wearing masks.

A recent survey shows that businesses plan to invest in new technology to reopen offices and businesses, as Nadine Mendoza reported for TechRepublic. The KPMG survey found that spending will focus on technology to address employee wellness, readiness and workforce health-tracking. 

The report also revealed that there is still much uncertainty regarding COVID-19 that even though leaders would like staff to return to offices, they won't make plans "until guidance is clearer." 

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