Turbocharging ambient backscatter communication

By: 
Aaron N. Parks, Angli Liu, Shyamnath Gollakota, Joshua R. Smith
Appears in: 
CCR August 2014

Communication primitives such as coding and multiple antenna processing have provided significant benefits for traditional wireless systems. Existing designs, however, consume significant power and computational resources, and hence cannot be run on low complexity, power constrained backscatter devices. This paper makes two main contributions: (1) we introduce the first multi-antenna cancellation design that operates on backscatter devices while retaining a small form factor and power footprint, (2) we introduce a novel coding mechanism that enables long range communication as well as concurrent transmissions and can be decoded on backscatter devices. We build hardware prototypes of the above designs that can be powered solely using harvested energy from TV and solar sources. The results show that our designs provide benefits for both RFID and ambient backscatter systems: they enable RFID tags to communicate directly with each other at distances of tens of meters and through multiple walls. They also increase the communication rate and range achieved by ambient backscatter systems by 100X and 40X respectively. We believe that this paper represents a substantial leap in the capabilities of backscatter communication.