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FCC Agrees to Give Amazon the Same Approval for Radar Sleep Tracking as Google

The FCC has approved Amazon’s request to include a radar-based sleep tracker in future devices. The special waiver cites the FCC’s previous permission to Google, who built the feature into the new Google Nest Hub smart display released in March.

Radar Snores

Amazon asked the FCC for a waiver from the restrictions on radar devices in order to incorporate such sensors in future devices as a way of tracking a user’s sleep. A smart display placed near the bed would use low-energy radar to track breathing and boy movement overnight. Combined with light, audio, and other sensors, the device could then put together a nightly report on how well someone slept, if they trashed around or snored, and related health indicators that could then be used to plan better sleep habits like darker rooms or specific wakeup times.

The request by Amazon cited other potential uses for the radar sensor like “gesture recognition” that would help people with disabilities interact with the device, but sleep tracking is very much the central element of at least the initial plans for the technology. The point of the radar is to be able to see what is happening nearby even when it’s dark, or something is out of the view of a standard camera. It also skips the need for a wearable or other direct contact with the user. Amazon’s Halo smart fitness band is capable of tracking sleep patterns and the time spent in different stages of sleep but requires one to wear it, which can be uncomfortable when sleeping for some people.

Google Equity

The main contention of the request was that Google had received similar approval back in 2018, and it would only be fair for Amazon to have the same permission. With plenty of caveats, the FCC agreed. With the two biggest brands of smart display makers now able to add sleep tracking by radar to devices, the door is open the door for a new facet of competition in the field.

“Specifically, Amazon requests to operate its Radar Sensor at identical power levels and technical parameters as those granted to Google in a 2018 waiver order,” FCC acting chief of the office of engineering and technology Ronald T. Repasi wrote in the letter granting the approval. “As with Google, Amazon describes how it plans to use its Radar Sensors to enable touchless control of device features and functions. It further distinguishes its anticipated devices as being “non-mobile” and only operating when connected to a power source, and states that it plans to use the radar’s capability of capturing motion in a three-dimensional space to enable contactless sleep tracing functionalities.”


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