Tech Talk: A Closer Look at the Past, Present & Exciting Future of Motion Detection

The melding of intruder notification and verification with AI combined with new device standards will catapult motion detection forward.

Tech Talk: A Closer Look at the Past, Present & Exciting Future of Motion Detection

After reading Peter Giacalone’s excellent “Sensing a Disruption in the House” column, I began thinking of the many years I have experienced the motion sensing technology evolution. I thought it would be fun to reflect on some motion detection technology history, and to wrap it up with some of the amazing motion devices that are now starting to appear on the market.

Having owned and operated an alarm company in the 1970s, I was at the proverbial crossroads of old and new upcoming alarm technology.

Earlier alarm systems typically had limited use of motion and control electronics. Interior motion detection could be something as simple as trip wires and floormat switches. There was some use of photo beams.

Exterior sensors included magnetic door/window contacts, alarm screens, and, of course, lots of window foil. Systems were often controlled by a shunt switch in the entrance door. Entrance and exit delay technology was just beginning. It was often electrical mechanical rather than electronic.

Microwave motion devices were used but often large and expensive. False alarms were often a big issue in the beginning stages. It became apparent early on that a good understanding of this newer electronic technology was important.

Along with this came the popularity of ultrasonic motion devices, which I liked because it was what I refer to as true volumetric detection. It would fill an area completely with sound and then detect movement, even if not directly in line-of-site with the sensor. The devices were reasonably priced and functioned nicely.

Then in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the PIR detector hit the market. At first, manufacturers had trouble stabilizing the pyro detection elements, and this caused many embarrassing moments with your customs. Again, after understanding the cautions to be made when setting up these units, have been a popular, stable, low cost device.

Moving Motion Detection Forward

One advancement that made its way over the years was the combination microwave and PIR sensor.  Movement of an intruder had to be confirmed simultaneously by the parameters of both microwave and infrared.

This helped to reduce false alarms. Additionally, it offered some unique professional security features such as anti-masking.

I would be remiss if I did not include video motion technology as one of the fastest growing technologies. It not only detects motion but provides evidence for confirmation of an alarm. While once this technology had false alarm issues, the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) is making it a more reliable motion sensing technology.

While PIR sensors have been the mainstay for decades, the advent of new technologies such as AI has created some new and exciting devices, like those for presence sensing technology. Remember when PIR technology was used for light control to detect if someone was in a room?  However, if someone remained still for any period of time the lights would go out again — not very practical.

Some new WiFi devices with AI support can detect very accurately the presence of people in a room, even if stationary.

For example, a company called Origin turns WiFi signals into WiFi sensors. WiFi signals are present today just by the nature of the many WiFi devices we use daily. Along with monitoring software, this system can detect the location and number of people in a room. It can be set up in zones for accurate location detection. Currently much of the technology is being used for home automation.

However, right around the corner is the potential for intruder notification and verification. What’s going to make this technology big is the advanced use of AI. The melding of these technologies with new devices standards such as Matter just gives me goosebumps.

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About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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One response to “Tech Talk: A Closer Look at the Past, Present & Exciting Future of Motion Detection”

  1. Thanks for the reference to my article on a most important and valuable subject matter.

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