06.08.14

RF signals harvested to connect unpowered devices to internet

Details of a communication system that connects battery-free devices to Wi-Fi infrastructure have been published this month in a huge boost to the potential of the "Internet of Things" (IoT). The research from a Washington University team builds on previous work, which allowed low-powered devices to harness energy from existing radio, TV and wireless signals, to deliver a system that can connect each individual device to the internet.

Embedding sensors in a multitude of objects for monitoring and tracking purposes has huge potential for the AV industry (particularly in the areas of remote management and service) and a way to cheaply power and connect devices will extend that potential.

Wi-Fi backscatter, the system designed by University of Washington (UW) engineers, uses radio frequency signals as a power source and reuses existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to provide Internet connectivity to devices.

Shyam Gollakota, a UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering, says:“If Internet of Things devices are going to take off, we must provide connectivity to the potentially billions of battery-free devices that will be embedded in everyday objects.

“We now have the ability to enable Wi-Fi connectivity for devices while consuming orders of magnitude less power than what Wi-Fi typically requires.”

The researchers will publish their results at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Data Communication‘s annual conference this month in Chicago. The team also plans to start a company based on the technology.

Joshua Smith, a UW associate professor of computer science and engineering and of electrical engineering; David Wetherall, a UW professor of computer science and engineering; and Bryce Kellogg and Aaron Parks, both doctoral students in electrical engineering authored the report.

The research was funded by the UW Commercialization Gap Fund, the Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship, Washington Research Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the UW.