Smart Occupancy Sensor Knows All

In the last few decades, building engineers and architects have made tremendous strides in improving the efficiency of various buildings and the devices that keep them safe and comfortable to live in. The addition of new technology like heat pumps is a major factor, as well as improvements on existing things like insulation methods and building materials. But after the low-hanging fruit is picked, technology like this smart occupancy sensor created by [Sina Moshksar] might be necessary to help drive further efficiency gains.

Known as RoomSense IQ, the small device mounts somewhere within a small room and uses a number of different technologies to keep track of the number of occupants in a room. The primary method is mmWave radar which can sense the presence of a person up to five meters away, but it also includes a PIR sensor to help prevent false positives and distinguish human activity from non-human activity. The device integrates with home automation systems to feed them occupancy data to use to further improve the performance of those types of systems. It’s also designed to be low-cost and easy to install, so it should be relatively straightforward to add a few to any existing system as well.

The project is also documented on this GitHub page, for anyone looking to build a little more data into their home automation system or even augment their home security systems. We imagine that devices like this could be used with great effect paired with a heating device like this, and we’ve also seen some other interesting methods of determining occupancy as well.

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Four images in one. Top left is an image of four individuals in a room with whiteboards and desks in the background along with various clutter on the floor. Over the people is a wireframe overlay of their poses. The image on the top right is just the wireframe people on a black background. Bottom left image is of a single individual standing in a room with the pose wireframe overlay. Bottom right image is the single pose wireframe on a black background.

Tracking Humans With WiFi

In case you thought that cameras, LiDAR, infrared sensors, and the like weren’t enough for Big Brother to track you, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have found a way to track human movements via WiFi. [PDF via VPNoverview]

The process uses the signals from WiFi routers for an inexpensive way to determine human poses that isn’t hampered by lack of illumination or object occlusion. The system produces UV coordinates of human bodies by analyzing signal strength and phase data to generate a 2D feature map and then feeding that through a modified DensePose-RCNN architecture which corresponds to 3D human poses. The system does have trouble with unusual poses that are not in the training set or if there are more than three subjects in the detection area.

While there are probably applications in Kinect-esque VR Halo games, this will probably go straight into the toolbox of three letter agencies and advertising-fueled tech companies. The authors claim this to use “privacy-preserving algorithms for human sensing,” but only time will tell if they’re correct.

If you’re interested in other creepy surveillance tools, checkout the Heat-Sensing Crotch Monitor or this Dystopian Peep Show.

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Hackaday Links: August 7, 2022

If you ever needed proof that class-action lawsuits are a good deal only for the lawyers, look no further than the news that Tim Hortons will settle a data-tracking suit with a doughnut and a coffee. For those of you who are not in Canada or Canada-adjacent, “Timmy’s” is a chain of restaurants that are kind of the love child of a McDonald’s and a Dunkin Donut shop. An investigation into the chain’s app a couple of years ago revealed that customer location data was being logged silently, even when they were not using the app, and even far, far away from the nearest Tim Hortons. The chain is proposing to settle with class members to the tune of a coupon good for one free hot beverage and one baked good, in total valuing a whopping $8.68. The lawyers, on the other hand, will be pulling in $1.5 million plus taxes. There’s no word if they are taking that in cash or as 172,811 coffees and doughnuts, but we think we can guess.

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Bug Eliminator Zaps With A Laser

Mosquitoes tend to be seen as an almost universal negative, at least in the lives of humans. While they serve as a food source for plenty of other animals and may even pollinate some plants, they also carry diseases like malaria and Zika, not to mention the itchy bites. Various mosquito deterrents have been invented over the years to solve some of these problems, but one of the more interesting ones is this project by [Ildaron] which attempts to build a mosquito-tracking laser.

The device uses a neural learning algorithm to identify mosquitoes flying nearby. Once a mosquito is detected, a laser is aimed at it and activated in order to “thermally neutralize” the pest. The control system as well as the neural network and machine learning are hosted on a Raspberry Pi and Jetson Nano which give it plenty of computing power. The only major downside with this specific project is that the high-powered laser can be harmful to humans as well.

Ideally, a market for devices like these would bring the price down, perhaps even through the use of something like an ASIC specifically developed for these mosquito-targeting machines. In the meantime, [Ildaron] has made this project available for replication on his GitHub page. We have also seen similar builds before which are effective against non-flying insects, so it seems like only a matter of time before there is more widespread adoption — either that or Judgement day!

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Magpies Help Each Other Escape Tracking Devices With This One Weird Trick

Scientists who work with animals love to track their movements. This can provide interesting insights on everything from mating behaviour, food sources, and even the way animals behave socially – or anti-socially, as the case may be.

This is normally achieved with the use of tracking devices, affixed to an animal so that it can be observed remotely while going about its normal business. However, Australian scientists have recently run into some issues in this area, as the very animals they try to track have been removing these very devices, revealing some thought-provoking behaviour in the process.

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Keep Tabs On Asteroids With Asteroid Atlas

Keeping tabs on the night sky is an enjoyable way to stay connected to the stars, and astronomy can be accessible to most people with a low entry point for DIY telescopes. For those who live in areas with too much light pollution, though, cost is not the only issue facing amateur astronomers. Luckily there are more ways to observe the night sky, like with this open source software package from [elanorlutz] which keeps tabs on all known asteroids.

The software is largely based on Python and uses a number of databases from NASA to allow anyone with a computer to explore various maps of the solar system and the planetary and non-planetary bodies within it. Various trajectories can be calculated, and paths of other solar system bodies can be shown with respect to an observer in various locations. Once the calculations are made in Python it is able to export the images for use in whichever image manipulation software you prefer.

The code that [elanorlutz] has created is quite extensive and ready to use for anyone interested in tracking comets, trans-Neptunian objects, or even planets and moons from their own computer. We would imagine a tool like this would be handy for anyone with a telescope as well as it could predict locations of objects in the night sky with accuracy and then track them with the right hardware.

Antique Map Of Paris With Modern Tech

There’s plenty to love about antiques, from cars, furniture, to art. While it might be a little bit of survivorship bias, it’s easy to appreciate these older things for superior quality materials, craftsmanship, or even simplicity. They are missing out on all of our modern technology, though, so performing “restomods” on classics is a popular activity nowadays. This antique map of Paris, for example, is made of a beautiful hardwood but has been enhanced by some modern amenities as well.

At first the creator of this project, [Marc], just wanted to give it some ambient lighting, but it eventually progressed over the course of two years to have a series of Neopixels hidden behind it that illuminate according to the current sun and moon positions. The Neopixels get their instructions from an ESP8266 which calculates these positions using code [Marc] wrote himself based on the current date. Due to the limitations of the ESP8266 it’s not particularly precise, but it gets the job done to great effect.

To improve on the accuracy, [Marc] notes that an ESP32 could be used instead, but we can give the ESP8266 a pass for now since the whole project is an excellent art installation even if it is slightly off on its calculations. If you need higher accuracy for tracking celestial objects, you can always grab a Raspberry Pi too.