SBIR Phase I: Passive Radio for the Internet of Things

Period of Performance: 07/01/2016 - 06/30/2017


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

UW BOX 352141 3000 Mason Road
Seattle, WA 98195
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to enable Wi-Fi and other radio transmissions at up to 10000 times lower power than has been possible. The technique for the first time can generate Wi-Fi and other radio transmissions using backscatter communication, for orders of magnitude lower power than conventional techniques. These backscatter transmissions can be decoded on conventional Wi-Fi Access Points, phones, and other devices. Given the increasing interest in the Internet-of-Things where small computing devices are embedded in everyday objects and environments, improving the energy efficiency of communication by up to 10,000 times will substantially extend battery life. As a result, this project would make the Internet of things more viable economically and environmentally, since batteries will travel to landfills at a slower rate. Economically, reducing or eliminating batteries from pervasive sensors will lead to growth in the semiconductor industry, and also in other businesses, which will be able to allow their customers to search the physical world, thanks to the new sources of data about the physical world. This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project introduces the key insight that the power-hungry, high-frequency analog and RF components found in battery-powered radios can be grouped together into a wall-powered device called the helper node. The energy constrained, battery-powered mobile/embedded endpoint device contains only low frequency and mostly digital components, making its power consumption negligible. The mobile devices transmit data by reflecting RF signals generated by the helper. This novel partitioning of the radio system allows the Endpoint to communicate far more efficiently than was possible with active radio techniques. This project aims to create a complete network stack that enables passive devices to coexist with conventional active devices in the ISM band. The system consists of ultra-low energy endpoint sensors, wall-powered helper devices, and commercial off the shelf active radio routers. The project involves building working networking hardware, designing and implementing a network stack matched to the project?s unique needs, and testing the resulting system with real customers. If successful, the project will have delivered the critical enabling technology for the vision of pervasively connected devices with billions of devices connected to the Internet without the need to replace batteries.