Disney researchers have created a system for identifying different gadgets based on radio frequency emission (“system noise”); the system is precise enough that it can tell apart two visually identical items. Called EM-ID, the name references electromagnetic signals produced by smartphones, laptops, and similar electronic devices; the identification process is also able to tell the difference between classes of items, such as distinguishing power tools from computers.
Though the system isn’t perfect, it does have a high accuracy rate when it comes to identifying objects. Disney Research team members working on the project saw 95-percent accuracy when determining which devices were giving off signals. Some items are easier to identify than others, though — toy lightsabers, for example, had a 100-percent accuracy in the studies, whereas the iPhone had a 72-percent accuracy.
Of course, the device must also be powered on to work, which limits the applications in which the EM-ID system can be used. Still, the system could find use in situations where items need to be inventoried or in some way tracked as they come and go, and perhaps could also be used in the mass-scanning of items to look for any oddball signals.
Disney Research Vice President Jessica Hodgins:
The idea that these electronic devices have such distinctive RF emissions is astounding. Our researchers were able not only to discover this phenomenon, but to develop a means of using it to identify devices right out of the box.