Small radio devices are the building blocks of all Internet of Things devices. In fact, in every wirelessly connected device, there are various radios used for producing waves for communication. Radio waves take a toll on efficiency and battery. That’s why the electronics world is still suffering from the perennial problem of limited battery life. Internet of Things devices are designed to help consumers continuously, and persistently, without any breaks. Radio wave-based communication isn’t feasible for IoT devices. A research conducted by Disney Research has presented a revolutionary alternative to the radio technology for Internet of Things devices. Disney Research’s team has proposed an ambient radio waves model to power IoT devices. Ambient radio waves suck energy from air which is littered with TV and cellular transmissions through a process known as ambient backscatter.
The signals and radio waves picked up from air are then modulated to the required frequency and band. These modulated signals are then fed to various Internet of Things devices. This breakthrough technology has been a topic of research over the last few years due to its brilliance and usefulness. Essentially, RFID tags also use the ambient technology, but the backscattering designed for IoT devices have a support for long ranges – up to 164 feet – due to various sources and channelizing.
Disney’s research could change the course of history in Internet of Things industry. Companies these days have to stuff radio devices and increase battery sizes in order to make devices useful and feasible. If the ambient backscatter technology becomes practical, we’ll start seeing much smaller, and useful IoT products in the market.
Alanson Sample, associate lab director and leader of Disney Research’s wireless systems group, said in a statement that the intent of the research was to reuse all the radio signals that are around us as a medium for transmitting data. Mr. Sample says it’s like producing ripples through a pond.
Disney researchers demonstrated the power of ambient radio waves by harnessing them for solar cells. The researchers used the ultra-wideband (UWB) backscattering technique, which uses multiple channels and boosts signal-to-noise ratio. This technique increases the sensitivity of backscatter reader and decreases dead zones.
The intention of the research conducted by Disney was to achieve ubiquitous deployment of ultra-low power nodes that communicate through ambient backscatter to wired Universal Backscatter Readers. The research demonstrated the use of 17 ambient signal sources to achieve node-to-reader communication distances of 50 meters, with data rates up to 1 kbps.