Promotion of Julian von Wilmsdorff

Compared to other technologies, electric field sensors have the advantage that they do not require direct visual contact and can be built compactly. The work focuses on the question of whether and how passive electric field sensors can be made available cheaply and easily and which applications are suitable for them. Different techniques are presented to reduce installation costs and simplify the handling of the sensors. Signal processing methods are also investigated to optimise the technology.

Congratulations, Dr Julian von Wilmsdorff!

Julian von Wilmsdorff, research assistant in the department "Smart Living and Biometric Technologies" successfully defended his dissertation on 28 November 2022 - congratulations!

The public defence of the dissertation on the topic "Passive Electric Field Sensing for Ubiquitous and Environmental Perception" took place at Fraunhofer IGD in Darmstadt and online. The supervisors of the thesis were Prof. Dr. Arjan Kuijper (TU Darmstadt), Prof. Dr. techn. Dieter W. Fellner (TU Darmstadt) and Prof. Dr. Matthias Hollick (TU Darmstadt).

Dissertation abstract

Electric Field Sensing plays an important role in the research branches of Environmental Perception as well as in Ubiquitous Computing. Environmental Perception aims to collect data of the surroundings, while Ubiquitous Computing has the objective of making computing available at any time. This includes the integration of sensors to perceive environmental influences in an unobtrusive way.

Electric Field Sensing, also referenced as Capacitive Sensing, is an often used sensing modality in these research fields, for example, to detect the presence of persons or to locate touches and interactions on user interfaces. Electric Field Sensing has a number of advantages over other technologies, such as the fact that Capacitive Sensing does not require direct line-of-sight contact with the object being sensed and that the sensing system can be compact in design. These advantages facilitate high integrability and allow the collection of data as required in Environmental Perception, as well as the invisible incorporation into a user’s environment, needed in Ubiquitous Computing.

However, disadvantages are often attributed to Capacitive Sensing principles, such as alow sensing range of only a few centimeters and the generation of electric fields, which wastes energy and has several more problems concerning the implementation. As shown in this thesis, this only affects a subset of this sensing technology, namely the subcategory of active capacitive measurements. Therefore, this thesis focuses on the mainly open area of Passive Electric Field Sensing in the context of Ubiquitous Computing and Environmental Perception, as active Capacitive Sensing is an open research field which already gains a lot of attention. The thesis is divided into three main research questions.

First, I address the question of whether and how Passive Electric Field Sensing can be made available in a cost-effective and simple manner. To this end, I present various techniques for reducing installation costs and simplifying the handling of these sensor systems.

After the question of low-cost applicability, I examine for which applications passive electric field sensor technology is suitable at all. Therefore I present several fields of application where Passive Electric Field Sensing data can be collected.

Taking into account the possible fields of application, this work is finally dedicated to the optimization of Passive Electric Field Sensing in these cases of application. For this purpose, different, already known signal processing methods are investigated for their application for Passive Electric Field sensor data. Furthermore, besides these software optimizations, hardware optimizations for the improved use of the technology are presented.