Superman can do it. But you don’t need x-ray vision to see through walls; new software from the Swiss startup Algorized helps sensors detect vital signs, including heartbeats and breathing, behind physical barriers such as walls. This ultrawideband technology for sensing doesn’t need video, relying on radar for detection.

A primary use of the technology is object detection for autonomous vehicles. Using the software, sensors can, for example, distinguish between a child and a cat behind a car. These sensors are common in many of the cars we drive and are growing increasingly so; Global Market Insights reports that the automotive sensors market in the U.S. topped $25 billion in 2022 and forecasts an annual growth rate of 5% from 2023 to 2032.

With the ability to detect signs of human life through rubble, it’s easy to see how the technology can aid rescue operations after earthquakes. And the world’s earthquake situation is bound to get worse. While the planet isn’t experiencing more earthquakes these days, population growth means more people live in places where earthquakes are more common. A study by the Swiss International Centre for Earth Simulation found that “the number of fatal earthquakes reported increases with time,” and that China, Turkey, and Iran lead the world with the highest numbers of fatalities per country. The World Bank estimates that since 1980, over 2.4 million lives have been lost to natural disasters.

But from our perspective, this technology has great potential for helping with aging-in-place issues and remote patient monitoring. The ability to measure heart and respiration rates at a range of 10 to 15 meters along with fall detection could be a huge benefit for elderly and chronic patients at home.