Samsung’s annual Galaxy Unpacked event took place last week, with no shortage of exciting announcements, from the Galaxy S24 and S24 Ultra smartphones to the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy Ring. However, one recent tidbit of news went unmentioned: Samsung’s new patent on heart rate monitoring via Wi-Fi router.
Of course, patent filings rarely, if ever, get announced at events like Galaxy Unpacked. Moreover, the technology is no doubt a far way off from its primetime debut. Nevertheless, it’s a cool concept and one that provides some insights into what the future of non-wearable smart health monitoring might look like.
How Wi-Fi-based breath monitoring works
This isn’t the first time we’ve reported on such a concept. A little over a year ago, scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced the development of a similar technology that measures breathing via Wi-Fi and, more critically, identifies whether someone may be struggling to breathe.
How does it work? The best Wi-Fi routers and the best mesh Wi-Fi systems continuously broadcast radio frequencies that bounce around and off everything in your home, including you. In fact, any movements you make and even any breaths you take can alter the signal’s path and thus be picked up by the router.
It appears that Samsung’s engineers have now taken the NIST’s idea a few steps further. The filed patent, called “Multi-Antenna Wi-Fi Breathing Rate Estimation,” notes that Samsung’s tech is capable of tracking breaths per minute for multiple users in a household while individually monitoring for respiratory anomalies. It could also be used to monitor for home intruders, similar to motion sensors.
Samsung’s other respiratory monitoring patent
This isn’t Samsung’s only patent for unique approaches to in-home respiratory monitoring. Another one, “Passive Breathing-Rate Determination,” is all about monitoring audible breathing patterns using the built-in microphones already in our smart devices.
According to the patent, this audio data could be augmented with location-based data from a wearable device or other device to better monitor for serious health conditions or events.
Don’t worry, though. Your smartphone microphone is paying no attention to your breathing patterns at the moment — just which buzzy brand names you mention to "better" serve ads on social. Of course, this intrusive feature can be switched off. Here’s how to do it on an iPhone and on an Android device.
The future of in-home health monitoring is near
The future of in-home health monitoring will likely not come in the form of one do-it-all device — though the Withings Beamo is pretty dang cool — rather, it will incorporate data from multiple smart devices and wearables to provide the clearest possible picture of user wellness.
Patent filings like these just bring us one step closer to that reality. And who doesn't want a future with fewer doctor's visits and more personal wellness insights?
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Dan Bracaglia covers fitness and consumer technology with an emphasis on wearables for Tom's Guide. Based in the US Pacific Northwest, Dan is an avid outdoor adventurer who dabbles in everything from kayaking to snowboarding, but he most enjoys exploring the cities and mountains with his small pup, Belvedere. Dan is currently training to climb some of Washington State's tallest peaks. He's also a big photography nerd.