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Exploring the Diversity of Human Presence Detection Technology Solutions

DFRobot May 29 2024 215

In today's rapidly advancing technological landscape, the need for monitoring and detecting human presence is becoming increasingly important. From enhancing security and convenience to precisely analyzing human traffic and optimizing business operations, human presence monitoring plays a critical role in various domains such as home, commercial, military, and public safety. This article will explore several major human presence monitoring technologies, including infrared sensors, microwave radar, millimeter-wave radar, video surveillance and artificial intelligence, ultrasonic sensors, thermal imaging, and sound recognition.


Home and Commercial Security Systems

Passive Infrared Sensors (PIR)

Typical residential/commercial PIR-based motion detector (PID).

Typical residential/commercial PIR-based motion detector (PID).


Passive infrared sensors are designed specifically to detect the movement of heat sources in the surrounding environment, such as humans or animals. They work by measuring infrared radiation within a specific wavelength range.

When a warm-blooded creature (emitting infrared radiation) moves into the sensor's effective range, the infrared radiation pattern in the environment changes. The detector can capture this change, thereby determining the presence of a moving heat source.

The advantages of PIR sensors lie in their low power consumption, low cost, radiation-free operation, and simple installation, making them well-suited for applications in home and commercial security systems, as well as automatic lighting control. However, PIRs also have limitations, such as an inability to determine the direction of motion, limited detection range and field of view, and sensitivity to environmental temperatures and interference sources.


Ultrasonic Sensors

Gravity: URM09 Ultrasonic Distance Sensor (2~500cm, Analog)

Gravity: URM09 Ultrasonic Distance Sensor (2~500cm, Analog)


Ultrasonic sensors utilize the principle of sound wave reflection to measure distance, detect presence, and track motion. They emit high-frequency sound waves, and when these sound waves hit an object's surface, they produce echoes. The distance to the target object is calculated based on the time difference of the echoes.

Ultrasonic sensors have several significant advantages in detecting human presence:

  • No radiation safety risks
  • Unaffected by visible light, suitable for dimly lit or smoky environments
  • High measurement accuracy, capable of detecting subtle movements
  • Low cost, easy to install and integrate


Military and Public Safety

Microwave Radar

U.S. Army soldier using a radar gun, an application of Doppler radar, to catch speeding violators.

U.S. Army soldier using a radar gun, an application of Doppler radar, to catch speeding violators.


Microwave radar utilizes the Doppler effect principle, detecting the presence and motion state of target objects by emitting and receiving microwave signals. Unlike optical or acoustic systems, microwave radar has excellent penetration capabilities, allowing it to monitor through non-metallic obstacles.

In the field of human presence detection, microwave radar is mainly used to detect active targets through walls or other coverings. This ability makes it potentially useful in military reconnaissance, rescue operations, building surveys, and security monitoring.

Compared to millimeter-wave radar, microwave radar operates at a lower frequency (typically in the 1-30GHz range) and has a longer wavelength, resulting in stronger penetration but relatively lower resolution. They often need to be combined with other sensors like PIR to enhance detection accuracy. Microwave radar also raises privacy and health concerns, as it may observe targets through non-conductive obstructions like clothing.


Millimeter-Wave Radar

mmWave - C4001 24GHz Human Presence Detection Sensor (25 Meters, UART)

mmWave - C4001 24GHz Human Presence Detection Sensor (25 Meters, UART)


Millimeter-wave radar is a subset of microwave radar, operating in the 30-300GHz millimeter-wave frequency band. Compared to microwave radar, it has a shorter wavelength and higher frequency, enabling higher resolution and sensitivity.

Millimeter-wave radar can be used to detect and track human presence and subtle movements, suitable for various civilian and public scenarios such as smart buildings, traffic monitoring, and barrier-free access monitoring. Compared to PIR and video surveillance, its advantage lies in its ability to monitor through most non-metallic materials while avoiding privacy leakage risks.

The limitations of millimeter-wave radar include its susceptibility to atmospheric absorption and scattering within this frequency range, resulting in a relatively limited detection distance. They are also sensitive to environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity. The system's cost and complexity are also relatively high.


Thermal Imaging Cameras

Image of a Pomeranian taken in mid-infrared ("thermal") light (false-color)

Image of a Pomeranian taken in mid-infrared ("thermal") light (false-color)


Thermal imaging devices are infrared imaging equipment that can detect infrared radiation emitted from object surfaces and visualize it as thermal images. They are primarily used to monitor and track heat source targets such as humans or vehicle engines.

In low-visibility environments or at night, thermal imaging can clearly display the thermal image of a human body, enabling all-weather human monitoring. Therefore, thermal imaging technology is widely used in military reconnaissance, fire rescue, border security, wildlife monitoring, and other fields.

Compared to other sensors, the advantages of thermal imaging include:

  • Unaffected by visible light conditions
  • Capable of penetrating a certain degree of smoke or dust
  • Long-distance target detection
  • Provides temperature distribution information

However, thermal imaging devices are expensive and sensitive to climate conditions and heat source obstructions. Additionally, due to limited thermal resolution, it is challenging to identify personal details such as identity.



Smart Home and Commercial Analysis

Sound Recognition

Smart Home and Commercial Analysis Sound Recognition

Sound recognition technology analyzes ambient sounds to identify and distinguish human voices, footsteps, and other sounds, thereby inferring human presence and activity status. Compared to other sensing technologies, sound recognition has unique advantages and application prospects in human presence monitoring:

  • Non-visual detection method, suitable for privacy-sensitive areas.
  • Unaffected by visual obstacles, capable of detecting human activities in obscured or enclosed spaces.
  • Can analyze multiple sound characteristics such as frequency, volume, and duration to improve detection accuracy.
  • Can be combined with other sensor technologies for multimodal detection, complementing each other.


Currently, sound recognition has been integrated into some smart home systems and security products to detect movements, distress calls, glass breakage, and more within a room. In commercial settings, it can also be used to analyze crowd density, behavior activities, and other scenarios.

However, the challenges of sound recognition technology mainly come from environmental noise interference and the limitations of voice recognition algorithms. Background music, fans, traffic noise, and other factors can affect detection accuracy. Therefore, specially trained noise cancellation models and robust voice feature extraction algorithms are often required. Privacy protection is also an important issue that needs attention.

In the future, sound recognition technology is expected to develop towards lower power consumption and greater intelligence. Combining with artificial intelligence deep learning models is likely to significantly improve recognition accuracy and expand application scenarios. The quality of voice and sound data annotation will also be crucial.


Video Surveillance with Artificial Intelligence

Surveillance cameras on the corner of a building

Surveillance cameras on the corner of a building


Video surveillance is a traditional method of human presence monitoring, using cameras and recording devices to monitor target areas in real-time or delayed mode. When combined with artificial intelligence technologies such as computer vision and machine learning, the performance of video surveillance systems is greatly enhanced.

AI endows video surveillance with numerous intelligent capabilities, such as:

  • Human detection and tracking
  • People counting and density analysis
  • Behavior pattern recognition (e.g., loitering, fighting)
  • Facial recognition and personal identification
  • Abnormal situation detection and alerting


AI models trained with deep learning algorithms can automatically analyze video footage and output relevant structured data, significantly reducing the workload of manual analysis.

However, video surveillance systems involve high infrastructure investment and maintenance costs. Integrating AI requires powerful computing capabilities and large amounts of annotated datasets, posing new technical challenges for system integration. Additionally, personal privacy has long been a major criticism faced by video surveillance.


Technology Comparison and Trends

Through the above analysis, we can summarize the strengths and weaknesses of different human presence monitoring technologies:

  • Passive infrared sensors (PIRs) are cost-effective, low-power, and easy to install, but have limited detection range and angle.
  • Microwave radar offers excellent penetration capabilities, suitable for monitoring through obstacles, but privacy issues need to be considered.
  • Millimeter-wave radar has high resolution, suitable for monitoring complex environments, but has higher system costs and is more susceptible to environmental influences.
  • Video surveillance is intuitive and feature-rich, but privacy protection requires special attention. Integration with AI can significantly enhance performance.
  • Ultrasonic sensors are safe, radiation-free, and highly accurate, but have a relatively narrow detection range.
  • Thermal imaging cameras are unaffected by lighting conditions but are expensive and unable to identify individual identities or details.
  • Sound recognition technology is privacy-friendly and not affected by visual obstacles but is more susceptible to noise interference.


In the future, the fusion of different sensing technologies may become a trend, leveraging their respective strengths to achieve multi-modal, integrated monitoring. Simultaneously, the continuous advancement of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms will enhance the intelligence level of various monitoring methods.

Additionally, emerging technologies such as WiFi sensing, laser radar, and 3D vision sensors may also emerge in the field of human presence monitoring. Overall, this field will become increasingly diverse and intelligent.



Human presence monitoring technology plays a vital role in various domains, including home security, industrial monitoring, medical monitoring, and emergency rescue. This article has explored several major technology solutions, including passive infrared, microwave, millimeter-wave, video surveillance with AI, ultrasonic, thermal imaging, and sound recognition.

Each technology has its unique advantages and limitations, and selecting the appropriate solution requires consideration of specific needs and environmental factors. In the future, the further integration of artificial intelligence and the convergence of different technologies may further improve detection accuracy and reliability. Emphasizing the importance of choosing the right technology solution based on specific requirements and environmental factors is crucial.