This upcoming Wi-Fi standard will give your router motion-sensing superpowers

Wi-Fi is everywhere and we can’t really do without it. But the current-gen Wi-Fi standard is limited to data transfer between devices, and with every new iteration, we just see better speeds and throughput.

For IEEE — the body that overlooks formations of networking-related protocols like ethernet — the challenge is to enhance the standard’s capabilities beyond data transfer. The aim of this upcoming protocol is to enable devices like phones and laptops to sense things in the environment — like detecting your movement in a room, and responding to gestures you make in the air. That’s right, your Wi-Fi network will one day be able to do this.

Before we talk more about it, here’s a bit of background.

How do Wi-Fi specifications work?

The Wi-Fi specifications that end up in our routers and network gear have all gone through a multi-year process of conceptualization and approval.

A working committee within the IEEE 802.11 group —which handles the process of forming various wireless protocols — lays out a technical proposal and starts working on specifications if approved. For example, The IEEE 802.11bf working group was founded in September 2020, and will at least work until 2024 to form the standard.

Once the final specs of a protocol are out, the IEEE committee works with the people behind to certify and market devices like routers and network switches. You can read more about the whole process here.