Image source: SleepScore

Amazon gets FCC approval for a radar-like sleep tracking device

Amazon has received approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a bedside device that uses radar to monitor sleep.

This is not entirely a surprise. We wrote at the start of the year about a non-contact device from Amazon that will be able to monitor for signs of sleep apnea. The source of the story was an article in the Business Insider.

This will apparently be a palm-sized hexagonal pad connected to a metal wire base that will sit on your bedstead. From there it will send out millimeter-wave radar to sense your breathing while you are lying asleep.

The technology

We’ve seen such technology in other devices. Back in 2018 we reviewed Sleep Score Max. The gizmo utilizes a radar-like system similar to the echo location system used by bats. The bedside device detects your sleep levels without touching you or the sleeping surface.

The Amazon gadget seems to be something along those lines. A gizmo that requires no mattress strips or wristbands to track your sleep. But it goes further that Sleep Score Max in the sense that it will be able to monitor for signs of sleep apnea.

The condition is characterized by pauses in breathing or periods of shallow breathing during sleep. One billion people suffer from it to some extent.

The sleep tracking device is being developed under the code name “Brahms”. This is a reference to the Germany composer of Lullaby. The report says the team has been working on it for at least a year. The goal is to eventually extend the technology to monitor for other sleeping disorders.

Essential reading: The best gadgets for advanced sleep monitoring

There are devices on the market that are already able to monitor for sleep apnea. Withings is leading the bunch with its Sleep Analyzer tracking pad. More recently the French outfit has extended the functionality to the Scanwatch. This makes the timepiece the first wrist device able to monitor for the condition. For the moment the watch is available in Europe, but it is still waiting for the nod of approval from the FDA in the US.

Other companies, such as Garmin and Fitbit, are also working on devices to battle sleep apnea. But we are yet to see anything materialise from their end.

FCC approval

Amazon has now received FCC approval for a radar-like sleep tracking device. They filed for a waiver in June for permission to use radar sensors that operate at higher power levels than currently allowed. The goal is to map out movements of persons nearby.

The paperwork describes two use cases for these high-frequency radio waves. The first is for touchless device control through gestures and movements. Another use case is for contactless sleep-tracking. Amazon requires permission from the FCC for this sort of thing, as this is the organisation tasked with policing the airwaves.

The retail giant notes in the waiver that such functionality could prove beneficial to persons with disabilities or the elderly. Not only would it help with accessibility of its devices, but it could also have health benefits.

“These devices would enable users to estimate sleep quality based on movement patterns,” Amazon wrote in the filing.

“The use of Radar Sensors in sleep tracking could improve awareness and management of sleep hygiene, which in turn could produce significant health benefits for many Americans.”

Another clue that this would be a bedside device lies in the description. Amazon writes that the tech would be built into non-mobile devices that are connected to a power source.

“Granting the waiver will provide substantial public benefit by, among other things, permitting the deployment of applications that can provide assistance to persons with disabilities and improve personal health and wellness,” the FCC said.

“We believe that, without the higher power levels associated with the waiver, it is highly likely that Amazon would not be able to produce devices that transmit with large enough bandwidths to provide sufficient resolution to achieve these objectives.”

Amazon has recently launched Halo – a body fat measuring fitness band. But it’s obvious the online retail giant has much loftier ambitions in the health and fitness space.

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Marko Maslakovic

Marko founded Gadgets & Wearables in 2014, having worked for more than 15 years in the City of London’s financial district. Since then, he has led the company’s charge to become a leading information source on health and fitness gadgets and wearables.

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