If you are bothered by having to wear a wristband to monitor your sleep, Amazon might have some good news for you. The company has recently been granted permission to use radar to capture motion in three-dimensional space and enable contactless sleep monitoring using a "non-mobile" device.
While we do not have details of what the device is likely to look like, it does confirm reports from earlier this year about Amazon working on a device to monitor user sleep and look for signs of sleep apnea. The reports also suggested that the device would be Alexa-powered but we do not know it would be integrated into future versions of Alexa Echos.
As per the permission granted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Amazon's Radar sensor will operate in the 57-64GHz frequency band. The spectrum had previously been used for facilitating secure communications but since 2001 has been set aside by the FCC for unlicensed wireless communications.
This allows equipment manufacturers to design devices that use this frequency for communication but do not need to obtain expensive licenses from the FCC, like a mobile phone company would need, to offer its own services.
Apart from this spectrum, the FCC has also set aside 2.4 GHz, 5.8GHz, and 24 GHz frequencies for similar unlicensed usage. While 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz frequencies are commonly used by wireless routers to connect devices to the internet, the 24 GHz frequency is used for communication over amateur radio and to amateur satellites.
The wavelength in the 57-64 GHz band varies from ten millimeters (30 GHz) to one millimeter (300 GHz). These are capable of data transfer rates that match those of fiber optic cable. In addition, the waves have a shorter range, higher security, and are immune to interference making them ideal for short-range communication.
Prior to Amazon, Google received similar permission in 2018 to use a 60GHz radar on its Pixel smartphone to enable contactless control of the device. Another smartphone maker OnePlus plans to use this technology to monitor breathing patterns. But the idea itself dates further back to 2014 when videogame maker Nintendo intended to make a sleep tracker on this technology, which it has since dropped.
Nevertheless, the permission brings Amazon a step closer to unveiling its sleep tracking device that it claims will help gesture recognition for aiding persons with disabilities, and provide sleep-related health and wellness applications. The company has already made its entry into the health segment with its Halo wristband. With a contactless device, it is bringing simpler ways to get things done.