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About the Authors:
David Gearhart, CFA
Senior Vice President
David Gearhart has worked in finance and investment for nearly two decades and joined First Analysis in 2011. He works with entrepreneurs as an investor and as an advisor on growth transactions to help build leading Internet of Things and e-commerce software businesses. He has played a key role in building First Analysis’s Internet of Things and e-commerce franchises and is a thought leader in his sectors, having authored several widely read white papers. He serves on the boards of Freeosk and SmartCommerce. Prior to joining First Analysis, he was an accountant with The Northern Trust Co. and an options broker with American Option Services. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University with a concentration in economics and finance and his MBA at DePaul University with a focus on finance and entrepreneurship. He is a CFA charterholder.
Howard Smith
Managing Director
Howard Smith has nearly three decades of experience at First Analysis, working with entrepreneurs as an investor and as an advisor on growth transactions to help build leading technology businesses. He leads the firm’s work in the Internet of Things, cybersecurity, and internet infrastructure sectors. He also built the firm's historical franchises in call centers and computer telephony. His thought-leading research in these areas has been cited for excellence by the Wall Street Journal and other publications. He serves on the boards of AppDetex, Fortress Information Security, VisiQuate and ObservIQ. Prior to joining First Analysis in 1994, he was a senior tax consultant with Arthur Andersen & Co. He earned an MBA with honors from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in accounting with highest honors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a certified public accountant.
First Analysis Internet of Things Team
Howard Smith
Managing Director
David Gearhart
Senior Vice President
Matthew Nicklin
Managing Director
First Analysis Quarterly Insights
Internet of Things
Wi-Fi sensing: Ubiquitous hardware, improving capabilities suggest mass adoption on the horizon
December 30, 2021
  • In our two most recent Internet of Things (IoT) reports, we examined two technologies – cameras and microphones – that can be used in place of traditional sensors to capture data. Here, we continue to explore this theme, moving beyond image and sound to Wi-Fi sensing, or using Wi-Fi networks as sensors. The world is beginning to wake up to the fact that the Wi-Fi devices we use for the simple purpose of accessing the internet and transmitting data actually represent an enormous untapped resource for sensing the environment around us.
  • Wi-Fi devices propagate radio waves in virtually all directions and broadcast continuously even when they’re not sending data packets, making it possible to use them as highly capable IoT sensors by measuring and interpreting changes in the radio waves as they travel through their environment.
  • Wi-Fi’s pervasiveness, both in terms of where it is already deployed and its complete environmental coverage, means it is an inexpensive and flexible resource for “seeing” and measuring the world and gives rise to compelling applications for Wi-Fi sensing in areas like security, automation and wellness.
  • Current commercial Wi-Fi sensing solutions can recognize when people are present by detecting motion. However, many more capabilities are nearing commercialization, and we expect Wi-Fi sensing’s low deployment costs and unique sensor capabilities combined with steady improvements in technology to drive impressive adoption over the next few years.
  • We highlight a few of the companies targeting this emerging market and its transformational potential.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Includes discussion of five private companies

How Wi-Fi detects presence and motion

Wide range of uses

Advantages, benefits to drive adoption

Standardization and improvements should further drive adoption

Initially a complementary IoT solution, eventually a substitute in some situations

Positioning for success

A sleeper technology with transformational potential

IoT index lags Nasdaq

M&A slows to close out strong year

Private placement activity at new quarterly high

How Wi-Fi detects presence and motion

Most of us know Wi-Fi as the short-range wireless networking technology used by our laptops, tablets, smartphones and other devices (Table 1) to access the internet. These devices use dedicated wireless chipsets and antennas to send and receive radio signals in local networks, encoding and decoding data as needed. Wi-Fi networks consist of gateways, routers, access points and extenders built with chipsets that are compatible across manufacturers. At least one device on each Wi-Fi network connects to the internet with a cellular radio or wireline. The number of Wi-Fi devices on a network and the radio frequencies they use dictate the network’s range and data capacity.

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