Toggle Menu
  1. Home/
  2. Tech & Science/
  3. IT&C/

Scientists discovered a way of “photographing” the interior of homes from outside – VIDEO

If you have ever seen how in science-fiction movies, someone presses a button and a whole building is scanned, find out that this is about to happen in real life as well.

Scientists from the Technical University in Munich managed to get a new way of ”photographing” the interior of a house without actually entering it.

All they have to use for this is the Wi-Fi router. Wireless technologies are everywhere around us, from the 4G LTE connection used for data networks of telecom operators and the Bluetooth technology from smartphones, to the home routers that emit signals in order for us to connect wirelessly to the Internet on a tablet or laptop.


The Wi-Fi signal passes through walls (albeit with difficulties where there is a lot of reinforcing steel in the structure), and the routers ”illuminate” as if they were invisible light bulbs.

Philipp Holl – a 23-year-old student from the Technical University of Munich – came up with the idea of using the waves emitted by the routers in order to scan the spaces in which they are located.

The Wi-Fi waves themselves are not the ones used, but the way in which they are reflected by the objects around them is intercepted.

All that it takes is for the signal to be captured by both a fixed and mobile antenna. By comparing Wi-Fi signals between the two, objects can be detected, in a similar fashion to a hologramme.

Holl initially built the device for his bachelor paper, helped by professor Friedemann Reinhard. Later on, the two conducted a study on their technique, published in Physical Review Letters in early May.

At the moment, the technology is only a prototype, but it is easy to imagine how secret services might use it.

Moreover, the technology could also be used for detecting victims under the debris of a building following earthquakes or landslides, or improving the performance of current routers.


Other SF ways to spy on you

This is not the only science-fiction way in which we can be spied. Technological advancements led to a series of devices we wish they weren’t real.

Smart TV can spy on users. These come with operating systems and apps and, just as with smartphones, secret services or hackers can spy on you by using the security vulnerabilities within them.

Not only is this possible, but there are cases in which this already happened: WikiLeaks recently showed that CIA, the external espionage agency of the USA, used a series of Samsung smart TV’s in order to spy. It developed alongside MI5 in Great Britain a software that could hack certain Samsung TV’s.

More specifically, the two secret services used a toold called ” Weeping Angel”in order to infiltrate the TV’s in the Samsung F8000 series. It fooled users that the TV was turned off, but it was actually recording the conversations, as it was only turning off the screen.

Samsung was harshly criticized by cybersecurity experts, who saw that the Tizen operating system, present on the Samsung smart TV’s and watches, is filled with security gaps.

The same applies to laptops or computers with webcam: the documents brought by Edward Snowden in 2013 showed that the NSA used a software called GUMFISH that allowed the spying agency to remotely turn on webcams in order to take pictures. Another plug-in, called CAPTIVATEDAUDIENCE, could trigger microphones in order to record conversations.

This is likely the reason that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, covers the webcam and microphone on his MacBook with duct tape.

Alexa, who is the murderer?

Smart gadgets from our homes make our lives much easier by controlling the light bulbs, thermostats, TV’s or even various appliances, such as fridges or vacuum cleaners.

This category of intelligent hubs is dominated at this moment by the Echo speakers, produced by Amazon. They are basically just like any other speaker, except that they are “brought to life” by virtual assistant Alexa, which has a multitude of apps.

Google also launched intelligent speaker Google Home, which comes with its own virtual assistant, while Microsoft partenered up with Harman/Kardon, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo to launch on the market such devices with Cortana, its own virtual assistant.

In this world that is barely emerging, a case already drew the public’s attention prosecutors investigating the death of a man in Arkansas asked the justice in the USA to emit a warrant to force Amazon into handing in to investigator the comments heard by the Amazon Echo speaker owned by the victim.

Investigators suspected that all of the victim’s conversations with Alexa can help solving the case, but Amazon refused to hand in the transcripts without a legal warrant.

Smart cities are constantly watching over you

Traffic cameras or even traffic lights automatically detect the number plates or cars, the speeds and even if you paid the road tax or not. The data is stored and, as more and more routes are memorized, your activity patterns are owned by the authorities.

This is also valid for pedestrians: Japanese holding Hitachi made a video monitoring system with artificial intelligence that can scan each person separately and can detect over a hundred features at the same time. The system can distinguish the gender, age, as well as hairstyle and outfit. It is destined to monitoring crowded areas, such as airports or train stations.

If until now, many security guards and employees were needed in order to monitor the surveilance cameras, the new system allows the automatic detection of suspects or findind children that lost their parents.

By introducing several features, the system can scan databases and footage that the respective person is rapidly found.

These sophisticated systems are destine for security at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The artificial intelligence surveillance system can be used on stadiums, in train stations and even in shopping malls, but it was criticized by activists fighting for human rights due to the invasion of private life.

Moreover, not only traffic or surveillance cameras can spy, but also intelligent lighting systems based on solar panels, since they come equipped with microphones.

Moreover, public transport means also have ”eyes and ears”. These included cities like San Francisco, Detroit, Baltimore, Boston or Hartford.

Installing chips

Although it sounds like the stuff of distopyas, this measure is practiced today. The US Army developed a technology that allows monitoring the health of soldier or their performances in battles. This can happen by implanting RFID microchips, which can also be used for identifying victims.

These kinds of chips are used in credit cards as well as for pets.

A Swedish company called Epicenter was causing quite a stir in April, after the media wrote that its employees had chips implanted.

The ”cyborgs” of the company don’t have to spend time anymore looking for their work ID, but only pass their hand in front of entrance sensors in order to open the door.

The ethical problem is huge, since the company or the hackers can theoretically find out where you are going, or various secret medical details.

Listening with a watch

A variation of the same problem is represented by the sensors Apple or other producers included in smart watches. For example, they can record the cardiac rhythm and soon, even the level of sugar in the blood.

Another aspect is more important, though: the British government forbid ministers to show up with Apple Watch smartwatches, for fear they might be compromised by Russia and foreign agents can listen to talks in the Cabinet with the help of the incorporated microphone.

The Apple Watch was banned by the Australian government as well at its meetings.

Daniel Higgson