Surveillance Through Your Home Appliances

By JR Raphael
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

All right, surveillance junkies, I’ve got a new one for you: a just-developed device that can turn your air conditioning system into a sophisticated home monitoring tool.

Shwetak Patel of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta came up with the protocol, featured in New Scientist today. The tool monitors changes in air pressure to detect human movement. It uses five air pressure sensors inside the AC’s filter to figure out when doors open and when someone walks in or out of a room. Scientists say it functions on a real-time basis.

The implications are endless. The technology could lead to energy efficient systems that sense what rooms are occupied or empty and adjust temperatures accordingly. It could also be used for burglar alarms that detect unexpected activity in a home or area of a building, or for any number of other surveillance-related purposes.

Patel will present his invention at an international conference in Australia later this month.

This isn’t the first time regular home appliances have been used for monitoring. As New Scientist points out, a Seattle engineer also created a tool that places microphones on a home’s plumbing system to detect and monitor activity. That’s right, on the plumbing system. I don’t even want to think about the kind of data that thing has collected.

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