Wi-fi backscatter: internet connectivity for RF-powered devices

By: 
Bryce Kellogg, Aaron Parks, Shyamnath Gollakota, Joshua R. Smith, David Wetherall
Appears in: 
CCR August 2014

RF-powered computers are small devices that compute and communicate using only the power that they harvest from RF signals. While existing technologies have harvested power from ambient RF sources (e.g., TV broadcasts), they require a dedicated gateway (like an RFID reader) for Internet connectivity. We present Wi-Fi Backscatter, a novel communication system that bridges RF-powered devices with the Internet. Specifically, we show that it is possible to reuse existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to provide Internet connectivity to RF-powered devices. To show Wi-Fi Backscatter’s feasibility, we build a hardware prototype and demonstrate the first communication link between an RF-powered device and commodity Wi-Fi devices. We use off-the-shelf Wi-Fi devices including Intel Wi-Fi cards, Linksys Routers, and our organization’s Wi-Fi infrastructure, and achieve communication rates of up to 1 kbps and ranges of up to 2.1 meters. We believe that this new capability can pave the way for the rapid deployment and adoption of RF-powered devices and achieve ubiquitous connectivity via nearby mobile devices that are Wi-Fi enabled.