LoRa-based Chip for Cheap Wireless Data
Considering how so many locations are focusing on “smart’ efforts, solutions need to be found to accommodate these changes. Equipping cars, streets, and other facilities with hundreds of sensors is one possible course of action, albeit it can become rather expensive at the end. Technology allows us to become a smarter and more aware society, but only if we find a way to keep the costs low and the quality of data high. There is no reason to not filter unnecessary “noise.”
Doing so is not all that easy. Under the current plans, we need thousands of transmitters and sensors to provide us with the data we need. Passing along information across hundreds of meters with existing technology is not all that easy when using tiny devices. However, researchers at the University of Washington have come up with a solution that can alleviate most of these concerns. Not only is the gadget small, but also cheap and incredibly energy-efficient.
This gadget, which will be unveiled at a computing conference in Miami on the 15th, uses LoRa technology. Some technology enthusiasts may have heard about this communication standard already. It allows devices to communicate with one another using radio waves. However, it does not suffer from the drawbacks we see when using WiFi. There is nothing to interrupt the data stream, as LoRa signals pass through walls and furniture without any problems.
By using a different frequency radio wave compared to WiFi, LoRa is an excellent solution to transmit data across large distances. Even very distinct signals can be distinguished from background noise with relative ease. While the generation of such carrier waves requires a lot of power, the impression of data upon an existing signal requires virtually no power. Apparently, this is exactly what the University of Washington researchers did.
According to Dr. Gollakota – one of the researchers – these LoRa-based chips can be made for less than $0.20 a piece. They are capable of listening for signals several hundreds of meters away. They can sue the existing signal to imprint data on it and send the information back to central transmitters. All of this is done by requiring 20 millionths of a watt. This means such devices can effectively be powered by watch batteries, for example. It is also possible they will operate using ambient energy, although that will not be the case for the first generation.
This kind of chip can serve many different use cases in the future. The range of potential applications is virtually limitless at this stage. Hospitals, for example, would benefit greatly from such chips embedded within hospital bracelets for patients. It is an interesting concept to keep an eye on and we will find out more when the technology is officially unveiled by the team.