Monitoring activity levels with wearable devices like the Fitbit is an easy way to keep track of habits and patterns that can have long-term health benefits. But one thing those step-trackers don’t do is measure the quality or speed of the steps we take, which can be a better predictor of health issues than step quantity.
To solve this problem, a group of researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has developed the WiGait, a wireless device that measures the walking speed of multiple people with up to 99 percent accuracy — no wearables required. The WiGait is mounted on the wall of a house and analyzes wireless signals as they reflect off people’s bodies, measuring speed and stride length. Changes in such factors over time can indicate that something is wrong, such as the development of a disease. Parkinson’s, for example, is characterized by a shortened stride. Particularly for the elderly, the WiGait could more accurately track users’ health than currently available wearables, providing insight into how someone could adjust their habits to better improve their well-being.