One of the biggest trends in the smart home over the next few years will be the adoption of RF-based technologies for presence detection, gesture recognition — even security and health monitoring. These technologies will run the gamut, from the Apple UWB chip to Wi-Fi-based security options provided by your router maker.
In addition to the traditional options, radar is also gaining ground. Google is using it for Project Soli, chip startup Vayyar is using it for automotive and fall-detection, and I just ran into a startup called Xandar Kardian that’s using it for commercial and smart home use cases. Xandar Kardian, which is based in Toronto and has R&D offices in South Korea, is using impulse-radio ultra-wideband radar as a means of understanding where people are in an area and even what they may be doing.
The use of radar is pretty common in industrial settings, especially on manufacturing lines that involve robots interacting near humans. Radar sensors on the robots tell them when people get too close or the robot needs to shut down to avoid hurting someone. But it can be used for even more finely tuned use cases, such as fall detection.
There are a variety of ways radar can be used. Generally, different types will lose granularity at farther distances, and they need a line of sight with an object in order to track it. That means a radar-based sensor must be in every room of a building where the person you want to monitor is, and furniture and other bodies can occlude what’s being detected. Xandar Kardian’s radar has a 130-degree field of view that works for about 10 meters. It won’t detect the fine motions Soli detects, but it will work from much farther away.
The company’s sensors can work even when placed high above the individuals a client wants to track. And radar protects privacy better than cameras.
The first commercial use case Xandar Kardian built was for commercial real estate clients that wanted to be able to accurately track people in malls and office buildings.
Its customers were real estate investment trusts that owned malls or office buildings. The REITs would install the sensors to find data about foot traffic past certain stores, and also also for things like whether or not someone was spending enough time and effort cleaning a bathroom in the public areas of an office building. Future use cases could include things like tracking the number of people in an elevator so it doesn’t stop on floors when there isn’t room for someone to get on.
Xandar Kardian has also talked to customers about using its radar to ensure there are no people in a bathroom before turning on a high-UV sanitizing light. In this use case, the radar could trigger the UV light to come on when no one is in the bathroom; it could also trigger the door to lock during the sanitizing cycle. I can imagine a single-use restroom where patrons wait for a sanitizing cycle to run between bathroom users, complete with a light or a lock that engages during the cycle to warn people not to come in.
Sam Yang, co-founder and CEO of Xandar Kardian, says demand for the product has increased during the pandemic as social distancing and ensuring specific capacity counts are met. However, in 2017, the company started working on a medical product for the home environment that could track certain movements and even respiration or heart rates. Yang says the company is in the midst of an FDA certification process for the device.
It is seeking a Class II certification, as a medical device. The certification process should take a few more months, and if approved, Xandar Kardian could offer hospitals, nursing homes, and even individuals the ability to monitor a person in a room without cameras.
Medical options aren’t the only way this might be used. Yang says the company is in talks with a home-sharing platform to use the sensors to detect a large number of bodies in the home, which might signal a party is under way.
Xandar Kardian doesn’t disclose revenue, but Yang says it has raised $4.2 million in outside funding so far and hopes to close on a $10 million round in the coming months.
I imagine the pandemic has only boosted interest in the round and the technology.
The story was published in the newsletter on Friday, Feb. 12, and misspelled the name of the company. This story has been updated for accuracy.