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Breakthrough: Seeing Through Walls Using WiFi

25-year-old Lebanese Fadel Adib, who was named one of the world's leading innovators under 35 by the Technological Review, has stumbled upon a ground-breaking discovery that will allow us to see through walls using WiFi.

The rise of the computer age has lead to technological breakthroughs happening more frequently than arguably any period in recorded history. Keeping track of the innovations and their inventors is the online publication, Technological Review, who have recently named Lebanon's Fadel Adib as one of the world's leading innovators under 35.

Born in Tripoli, the 25 year old began his studies at the American University of Beirut, before being accepted at MIT as a PhD candidate in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab. The first notable difference that caught Adib by surprise at MIT was the ability to focus on research. Living in Lebanon, Adib had become used to weekly violence, bombings and assassinations. With the threat of danger and the constant worry for friends and family, Adib struggled to find the time and mental energy to focus on his research.

While working on a project to maximize Wi-Fi speed, Adib noticed something strange occurring, “Every once in a while, the system would get messed up, and we would stop getting good results. We realized that there was some person walking in the hallway, and that person’s walking was basically changing the channel,” Adib tells the Technological Teview.

Baffled by how someone in another room could affect the wireless signal, Adib explored further, leading to a breakthrough; “If I shine a wireless signal at the wall, a huge amount of this signal is going to reflect off the wall. A tiny part of that signal will traverse the wall, reflect off anything that’s behind it, and then come back. We realized that we can sense motion using these wireless signals, and that’s how we started working on seeing through walls.”

The real-world applications of this breakthrough are endless, as now stores can accurately track customers and their habits, while doctors can monitor multiple people's heart rates and breathing, as well being able to examine a foetus without even having to touch the mother. As for police officers, they could use the technology to track the movement of criminals in a room.

Meanwhile, Adib's grandmother points out, “So, for example, can I put it over here in my living room, and if I fall in the bedroom or in the bathroom, it’s going to detect my fall and send an SMS to one of my children?” With this newfound understanding a lot of things become possible. However it will take some time until apps are created using it, but it explains very clearly why the Technology Review believes he is leading the pack of innovators under 35.