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Miniature Wi-Fi Device Supplies Missing Link For the Internet of Things

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Internet of Things, illustration

Stanford University researchers have developed HitchHike, a tiny, ultra-low-energy wireless radio that enables data transmission using just micro-watts of energy. HitchHike "can be used as-is with existing Wi-Fi without modification or additional equipment," and consumers can use it today with a cell phone and an off-the-shelf Wi-Fi router, according to Stanford researcher Pengyu Zheng. HitchHike requires so little power a small battery could drive it for a decade or more, and it has the potential to harvest energy from existing radio waves and use that electromagnetic energy to power itself, potentially indefinitely. "HitchHike could lead to widespread adoption in the Internet of Things," says Stanford professor Sachin Katti.

HitchHike is a variation on a backscatter radio. The system bounces Wi-Fi signals back into the atmosphere, a signal known as backscatter. In order to function as a true radio, HitchHike must produce its own messages, rather than reflect existing messages. To do that, the Stanford researchers developed "code word translation." HitchHike shifts its new signal to another Wi-Fi channel, thus avoiding the radio interference between the original signal and the new data stream.

"HitchHike opens the doors for widespread deployment of low-power Wi-Fi communication using widely available Wi-Fi infrastructure and, for the first time, truly empower the Internet of Things," Zheng says.

From Stanford University
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