Towards a diffraction-based sensing approach on human activity recognition

Fusang Zhang, Kai Niu, Jie Xiong, Beihong Jin, Tao Gu, Yuhang Jiang, Daqing Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, wireless sensing has been exploited as a promising research direction for contactless human activity recognition. However, one major issue hindering the real deployment of these systems is that the signal variation patterns induced by the human activities with different devices and environmental settings are neither stable nor consistent, resulting in unstable system performance. The existing machine learning based methods usually take the "black box" approach and fails to achieve consistent performance. In this paper, we argue that a deep understanding of radio signal propagation in wireless sensing is needed, and it may be possible to develop a deterministic sensing model to make the signal variation patterns predictable.
With this intuition, in this paper we investigate: 1) how wireless signals are affected by human activities taking transceiver location and environment settings into consideration; 2) a new deterministic sensing approach to model the received signal variation patterns for different human activities; 3) a proof-of-concept prototype to demonstrate our approach and a case study to detect diverse activities. In particular, we propose a diffraction-based sensing model to quantitatively determine the signal change with respect to a target's motions, which eventually links signal variation patterns with motions, and hence can be used to recognize human activities. Through our case study, we demonstrate that the diffraction-based sensing model is effective and robust in recognizing exercises and daily activities. In addition, we demonstrate that the proposed model improves the recognition accuracy of existing machine learning systems by above 10%.
Original languageEnglish
Article number33
Number of pages25
JournalACM Proceedings on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Wireless sensing
  • Fresnel diffraction model
  • Human activity sensing
  • Wi-Fi


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