WiFi Backscatter Power to Battery-free Devices

Wifi backscatter power can work to provide power. A new wireless technology will allow battery-free devices (such as small scale wearable technology) to grab ambient wireless signal out of the air to provide power. Using the newly developed “Wi-Fi Backscatter” technology, created by engineers at University of Washington, two devices can communicate with each other by drawing signal from whatever ambient radio, TV, and cellular transmissions are passing through the air.

The backscatter system makes use of a fraction of wifi power that normal wifi devices use (less than 10 microwatts) by installing an electronic tag with an antenna and circuitry, that connects up with wifi enables devices (laptops, smartphones). The tags encode data in real time and alter the wireless signal.

With the current technology, UW’s Wi-Fi backscatter tags have connected at speeds of 1 kilobit per second at a range of about 2 meters between the devices. The engineers want to extend the range to about 20 meters and have filed patents for the technology.

This Wi-Fi backscatter technology will help enable the “Internet of Things” in which multiple devices all around us in our daily lives are connected and transmitting information through the internet. For example, a smart house with timers for lighting, and outdoor temperature sensors to control heating inside the house. Or your internal pacemaker could fail and send an internet signal to your phone which then automatically dials for an ambulance.

These battery-free devices will rely on IPv6 addresses, as these numerous small devices will require many more IPs than IPv4 is currently able to provide. Information technology research and advisory company Gartner estimates that 26 billion devices will be connected on the Internet of Things by 2020.