The FCC has given Amazon permission to use 60 GHz radar in a future device to monitor people’s sleep habits and sense gesture commands.
Amazon asked for a waiver [PDF] from the US communications regulator to build a gadget that emits radar waves and “operates with higher forces than what is allowed today” in June. Ronald Rapasi, acting head of the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology, officially approved the request this month.
The mysterious gizmo, referred to as a “radar sensor” in the FCC’s response [PDF], will emit radar waves at frequencies between 57 and 64 GHz. It was described as a “non-mobile device” that must be constantly connected to a power source to function. Amazon said the sensors would be used to help less physically able to communicate with the device through gesture commands, and could promote “sleep hygiene.”
Pulses of electromagnetic energy emitted from the device can be used to track movement, Amazon suggested. The data collected by the device can then show users their sleep pattern and sleep quality.
“The use of radar sensors in sleep tracking can improve awareness and management of sleep hygiene, which in turn can provide significant health benefits for many Americans,” reads Amazon’s dropout request.
The FCC’s approval stated that the device is not permitted to transmit radar waves lasting more than 3.3 milliseconds within a period of 33 milliseconds to prevent it from potentially interrupting other devices using 60 GHz bands as well. Amazon must also be transparent about the device’s radar functions in any product manual.
Rapasi said the commission felt compelled to grant Amazon a waiver because it approved a similar request from Google for radar to be installed on Pixel smartphones. “This represents a much narrower setting than the one we approved in Google Waiver (ie the Google device can be worn by one person and used indoors, outdoors and on board commercial aircraft),” he said.
“These features give us extra confidence that the analysis we conducted in Google Waiver applies to this situation, and that operating the Amazon Radar Sensor will not increase the potential for harmful interference to authorized users of the band.”
The technical details of Amazon’s so-called radar sensor are slim; it is not clear whether the internet giant plans to add the capability to the products already available, such as its Echo family of digital assistants, or whether it will be a separate entity entirely.
No one at Amazon was available to comment on the regulator’s approval message, which was first reported by Bloomberg. ®