Future Wearables Could Communicate Using Reflected Wi-Fi

Sending data between small, portable devices is full of compromise: higher transfer rates usually means a bigger drain on the battery. But UCLA researchers have a plan to use reflected Wi-Fi signals to help solve that problem.

A teams from UCLA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has spent the last two years developing technology which allows small devices, like wearables, to communicate with Wi-Fi routers by reflecting the signals they send out right back. The idea is to piggyback on the signal and cut power consumption at the same time.

The technology is called ambient backscatter, and the joy is that devices using it don't require a transmitter. Instead, the device is built in such a way that it tweaks and reflects waves that are bouncing around us already—using specially designed Wi-Fi reflector that uses just 0.01% of the power of a normal Wi-Fi link.

Does it work? Sure! In tests, it's already managed to transfer data at speeds of up to 3 Mbps. The only downside is that it only works over distances of 8 feet right now—though the researchers hope that could be increased to 65 feet in the future. If they can, this could actually turn into a practical solution. Let's see. [UCLA via Engadget]