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Mining Energy from 'Empty' Air

By Leah Hoffmann

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 65 No. 3, Pages 112-ff

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No matter where you are in the world, you're surrounded by signals: Wi-Fi signals, cellular signals, and other radio frequency (RF) signals are already in the environment. What could you do with them? That is the question ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award recipient Shyam Gollakota—a professor in the University of Washington's Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering—set out to investigate. The answers took him from no-power Wi-Fi to a tracking sensor so small it can be worn on an insect's back. Here, he talks about the technology and its many applications.

Ambient backscatter harnesses wireless signals in the atmosphere to generate power and transmit encoded data. How did you come to work on it?


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