One promise of modern microelectronics is the possibility of embedding sensors in various parts of the human body and using them to monitor everything from blood glucose levels to brain waves. They could even help treat conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and other medical conditions.
To carry out this work, these devices need to communicate with the outside world, and that is a power-consuming business.
We introduce inter-technology backscatter, a novel approach that transforms wireless transmissions from one technology to another, on the air. Specifically, we show for the first time that Bluetooth transmissions can be used to create Wi-Fi and ZigBee-compatible signals using backscatter communication. Since Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and ZigBee radios are widely available, this approach enables a backscatter design that works using only commodity devices. We build prototype backscatter hardware using an FPGA and experiment with various Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ZigBee devices. Our experiments show we can create 2-11 Mbps Wi-Fi standards-compliant signals by backscattering Bluetooth transmissions. To show the generality of our approach, we also demonstrate generation of standards-complaint ZigBee signals by backscattering Bluetooth transmissions. Finally, we build proof-of-concepts for previously infeasible applications including the first contact lens form-factor antenna prototype and an implantable neural recording interface that communicate directly with commodity devices such as smartphones and watches, thus enabling the vision of Internet connected implanted devices.