What do you think of when someone mentions radar? If you are like most people, you think of police catching speeders or air traffic controllers managing airplanes in the sky. Radar is nothing new. It has been around for decades. Until recently though, radar has only existed on a large scale implemented with very large equipment. Not anymore.
It turns out your next smartphone may have its own embedded radar system. Thanks to a project Google engineers are working on right now, radar built intoa smartphone has a lot of potential for motion tracking and a variety of healthcare applications. Though still in the preliminary stages of development, it will probably not be long before the technology is ready for prime time.
How Radar Works
Radar is a technology that relies on radio signals to measure the size, angle, range, and velocity of objects. The very first experiments with the technology actually occurred in the late 1880s. Our modern radar dates to World War II and some brilliant scientists working for the Allies.
So, how does it work? By transmitting radio waves at certain frequencies and then measuring them as they bounce back. Just about every object on the planet creates a radar signature of some form. The more definitive that signature, the easier it is for radar to determine things like range and velocity.
Let’s say you’re approaching a police officer tracking your vehicle as you travel down the interstate. The officer’s radar gun is emitting radio waves that travel directly at your vehicle. When they strike your vehicle, they bounce back in the same direction from which they came. The radar gun then measures the rate at which they return. This tells the police officer how fast your car is moving.
Rock West Solutions, a California company that designs custom sensors for police, military, and commercial applications, says radar is one of the simplest sensor technologies out there. It is also one of the most reliable. It would make sense that a company like Google would be interested in miniaturizing radar in order to fit it inside a smartphone.
We already know how effective radar is. Why would Google go to the trouble of trying to miniaturize it? Because there are plenty of implications for smartphone and tablet use. For example, imagine your phone on top of a mount situated on your kitchen counter. You are using the phone to read your e-mail messages to you. Want to move to the next message? Try swiping to the right without ever touching the phone.
This is an excellent feature when you are in the middle of cooking. No need to touch your phone with dirty hands. Just swipe through the air and your phone will respond accordingly.
According to Mobihealth News, the technology has already been deployed for healthcare purposes. A project at the University of Waterloo has deployed Google’s radar solution to track glucose concentrations. It might offer a way for diabetics to non-invasively measure their blood glucose at some point in the future.
Another company uses radar motion tracking to measure whether people are taking the medications. Yet another company has learned to use the technology to monitor eating and drinking habits for the purposes of helping people track their caloric intake.
We typically think of radar as a tool of the military, law enforcement, and aviation. But thanks to some very smart people who have figured out how to miniaturize it, radar now has a ton of additional applications when built into a typical smartphone.