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Wi-Fi backscattering

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Wi-Fi backscattering is a low-power communications technology that uses radio frequency (RF) signals as a power source and reuses the existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to provide RF-powered devices with Internet connectivity. 

The technology consumes significantly less power than Wi-Fi typically requires, because it uses Wi-Fi as a carrier for its own signals. By selectively reflecting existing RF signals, the technology can provide battery-powered devices, like sensors, with Wi-Fi connectivity -- while also eliminating the need for the sensor's battery to be recharged or perhaps even exist at all. The reflected signals, which are called backscatter, create a pattern of stronger and weaker signals that can be detected among the original Wi-Fi signals by specially tuned Wi-Fi routers.

Wi-Fi backscattering’s low-bit rate network capacity and low power requirements make it suitable for applications like Internet of Things (IoT), WSAN (wireless sensor and actuator networks), machine-to-machine (M2M) networking and RF-powered computing. Research for developing the technology is being funded by the National Science Foundation, the University of Washington, the University of Washington Commercialization Gap Fund, the Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship and the Washington Research Foundation.

This was last updated in January 2016

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