Ambient Backscatter: Wireless Communication Out of Thin Air


Trev writes to inform us of a wireless communication device without a dedicated power source has emerged from the Networks and Wireless lab of the University of Washington.

According to the developers, “We present the design of a communication system that enables two devices to communicate using ambient RF as the only source of power. Our approach leverages existing TV and cellular transmissions to eliminate the need for wires and batteries, thus enabling ubiquitous communication where devices can communicate among themselves at unprecedented scales and in locations that were previously inaccessible.

To achieve this, we introduce ambient backscatter, a new communication primitive where devices communicate by backscattering ambient RF signals. Our design avoids the expensive process of generating radio waves; backscatter communication is orders of magnitude more power-efficient than traditional radio communication.”

The 13-page PDF project abstract can be downloaded here.

Via the contact form.

This entry was posted in data transfer, wireless and tagged , .

Comments

  1. Brian says:

    Very interesting work. It certainly would seem to have some actual uses but the near-field demo isn’t probably the one I might select this for use in. The suggestion of built into walls is much better I should think, but it really is only needed if you can’t push wireless power to the sensor another way, otherwise the more mature conventional RFID probably would win out.

  2. Alan says:

    At what level do you have enough RF to harvest the power needed for the device? At what frequency?
    How close would I need to stand to a mains tower?
    How close to a power cord in my house?

  3. Boba says:

    Hi there

    This could be useful for making a finder for lost items such as mobile phones, keys, cars, boats etc

    Thanks

    Boba

  4. Chris C. says:

    “…thus enabling ubiquitous communication where devices can communicate among themselves at unprecedented scales and in locations that were previously inaccessible.”

    I think this claim by the developers is rather misleading, considering the paper describes it can only communicate over distances of a foot or two. It’s certainly a novel technique, but with more conventional alternatives as Brian describes.

  5. Anu says:

    Invited technology

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