Filings reveal Amazon’s plan to use radar for ‘sleep tracing’ and touchless device control

An Amazon Echo Dot. (Amazon Photo)

Amazon plans to use radar to help people monitor their sleep and control their devices using gestures, a Federal Communications Commission filing reveals.

The FCC on Friday granted the Seattle tech giant’s request for a waiver to deploy the technology, based in part on a precedent established by its 2018 approval of Google’s request for a similar waiver for its Soli portable radar technology.

Amazon said in its June 22 filing that the radar sensors capture motion in three-dimensional space, allowing users to “engage with a device and control its features through simple gestures and movements.”

The radar would also “monitor sleep with a higher degree of resolution and location precision than would otherwise be achievable,” according to the filing.

“In doing so, these devices would enable users to estimate sleep quality based on movement patterns,” Amazon said in the filing. “The use of Radar Sensors in sleep tracking could improve awareness and management of sleep hygiene, which in turn could produce significant health benefits for many Americans.”

Bloomberg News first reported on the FCC approval. GeekWire has contacted Amazon for comment on the filings and its plans for the technology.

Business Insider reported previously that Amazon was developing an Alexa device for tracking sleep and monitoring for symptoms of sleep apnea.

Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant and Echo devices aren’t mentioned in the FCC filings, but it’s clear that Amazon isn’t making the features for smartphones. The filing says the devices will be “non-mobile” and operate only when connected to a power source.

Amazon currently offers sleep tracking through its Halo band and related subscription service, part of its ongoing push into health and wellness.

It’s part of a larger movement in the tech industry to use smart-home devices for health and wellness. For example, researchers at the University of Washington developed a technology that uses sound waves from an Amazon Echo or Google Home device to detect irregular heartbeats.

Amazon Health/life sciences Alexa Echo