Researchers have created what they’re calling the “Internet of Ears,” sensors that read vibrations, sounds, movements, and subtle changes in the ambient electrical field. In the future, buildings may use this technology to automatically adjust to users’ activity with only a few hidden sensors as opposed to a more invasive security camera.
Researchers from Case Western Reserve University say that their research could lead to a building that “listens” using principles derived from the human ear. Just as the ear picks up vibrations and uses them to determine specific movement, the technology would use algorithms to adjust to the people in the building, explains Ming-Chun Huang, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science.
“This system would read not only the vibrations, sounds—and even the specific gait, or other movements—associated with people and animals in a building, but also any subtle changes in the existing ambient electrical field,”
writes Mike Scott, Senior Media Relations Specialist at Case Western. While there is constantly a 60 HZ electrical field, people disturb it. By measuring the disturbance, the sensors can determine the people’s presence, even without sound, according to Soumyajit Mandal, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science.
These smart sensors can save energy and increase building safety. “The first advantage will be energy efficiency for buildings, especially in lighting and heating, as the systems adjust to how humans are moving from one room to another, allocating energy more efficiently,” said Huang. The sensors can also be used to determine how many humans can safely occupy a building based on the number of people on the floor as well as their distribution.
Although the “Internet of Ears” technology probably won’t be available in the marketplace for another decade, smart home technology has become increasingly popular. By 2021, over half of Americans households will have smart home equipment, according to a study from Berg Insight. As connected devices become more affordable and less glitchy, more households are establishing smart home ecosystems.