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Seamless Integration of Battery-Free Communications in Commodity Wireless Networks
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Mathematics and Computer Science, Department of Information Technology, Computer Architecture and Computer Communication. Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Mathematics and Computer Science, Department of Information Technology, Division of Computer Systems. (UNO)
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Ubiquitous sensing applications have countless potential benefits to society. However, batteries have long been an obstacle to their full development. Harvesting energy from the environment is a promising alternative to battery power, but traditional radio transceivers consume too much for most harvesters.  This work is motivated by backscatter communications, a technique that reduces the energy that devices spend exchanging data by up to three orders of magnitude relative to regular radios.  This reduction enables sensing devices that operate indefinitely without having to replace batteries; instead they leverage energy harvesting.  My goal is to enable the seamless integration of battery-free devices with widespread low-power commodity networks such as Bluetooth or ZigBee/IEEE 802.15.4.  Making this integration seamless is critical for the broad adoption of the new class of devices.

At a high level, my dissertation outlines a series of challenges to the seamless integration of the new devices with regular low-power networks.  We then propose ways to address these challenges, and demonstrate how we could integrate ultra-low-power battery-free devices with regular networks, while avoiding hardware modifications and minimizing any disruption that the addition may cause to existing and co-located communication devices.

This work advances the state of the art by: First, demonstrating how to augment an existing sensor network with new sensors without any hardware modification to the pre-existing hardware. The existing network provides the unmodulated carrier that the battery-free nodes need to communicate. Second, we demonstrate a radio receiver that, if implemented in silicon, can directly receive low-power commodity wireless signals when assisted by an unmodulated carrier, and with a power consumption of a few hundred microwatts. The receiver makes battery-free devices directly compatible with regular networks. We introduce simulation models and a first-of-its-kind tool to simulate battery-free communications that integrate with regular networks. Finally, we demonstrate how to efficiently provide unmodulated carrier support for battery-free devices in the previous scenarios without unnecessarily spending energy and spectrum and without undue disturbance to co-located devices.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2020. , p. 65
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1928
Keywords [en]
Backscatter communications, battery-free communications, battery-less devices, RFID, backscatter
National Category
Communication Systems Telecommunications Embedded Systems
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-407787ISBN: 978-91-513-0931-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-407787DiVA, id: diva2:1421070
Public defence
2020-05-25, Polhemsalen, Ångströmlaboratoriet, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala, 09:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2020-04-29 Created: 2020-04-01 Last updated: 2020-05-04
List of papers
1. Augmenting IoT networks with backscatter-enabled passive sensor tags
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Augmenting IoT networks with backscatter-enabled passive sensor tags
2016 (English)In: Proceedings of the 3rd Workshop on Hot Topics in Wireless, 2016, p. 23-27Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The sensing modalities available in an Internet-of-Things (IoT) network are usually fixed before deployment, when the operator selects a suitable IoT platform. Retrofitting a deployment with additional sensors can be cumbersome, because it requires either modifying the deployed hardware or adding new devices that then have to be maintained. In this paper, we present our vision and work towards passive sensor tags: battery-free devices that allow to augment existing IoT deployments with additional sensing capabilities without the need to modify the existing deployment. Our passive sensor tags use backscatter transmissions to communicate with the deployed network. Crucially, they do this in a way that is compatible with the deployed network's radio protocol, and without the need for additional infrastructure. We present an FPGA-based prototype of a passive sensor tag that can communicate with unmodified 802.15.4 IoT devices. Our initial experiments with the prototype support the feasibility of our approach. We also lay out the next steps towards fully realizing the vision of passive sensor tags.

Keywords
Backscatter communication, Internet of Things, Wireless
National Category
Communication Systems
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-306898 (URN)10.1145/2980115.2980132 (DOI)978-1-4503-4251-3 (ISBN)
Conference
3rd Workshop on Hot Topics in Wireless, HotWireless. October 3-7, 2016. New York
Available from: 2016-11-04 Created: 2016-11-04 Last updated: 2020-04-01Bibliographically approved
2. Battery-free 802.15. 4 Receiver
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Battery-free 802.15. 4 Receiver
2018 (English)In: 17th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Information Processing in Sensor Networks (IPSN), IEEE, 2018Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

We present the architecture of an 802.15.4 receiver that, for the first time, operates at a few hundred microwatts, enabling new battery-free applications. To reach the required micro-power consumption, the architecture diverges from that of commodity receivers in two important ways. First, it offloads the power-hungry local oscillator to an external device, much like backscatter transmitters do. Second, we avoid the energy cost of demodulating a phase-modulated signal by treating 802.15.4 as a frequency-modulated one, which allows us to receive with a simple passive detector and an energy-efficient thresholding circuit. We describe a prototype that can receive 802.15.4 frames with a power consumption of 361 μW. Our receiver prototype achieves sufficient communication range to integrate with deployed wireless sensor networks (WSNs). We illustrate this integration by pairing the prototype with an 802.15.4 backscatter transmitter and integrating it with unmodified 802.15.4 sensor nodes running the TSCH and Glossy protocols.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
IEEE, 2018
Keywords
Battery free, Backscatter, receiver, 802.15.4, Zigbee, sensor networks, passive radio, wireless
National Category
Computer Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-366929 (URN)10.1109/IPSN.2018.00045 (DOI)000449016500037 ()978-1-5386-5298-5 (ISBN)
Conference
17th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Information Processing in Sensor Networks, Porto, Portugal, 11-13 April, 2018.
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2017-045989Knowledge Foundation, 20140319
Available from: 2018-11-26 Created: 2018-11-26 Last updated: 2020-04-01Bibliographically approved
3. Modelling Battery-free Communications for the Cooja Simulator
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Modelling Battery-free Communications for the Cooja Simulator
2019 (English)In: Proceedings of the 2019 International Conference on Embedded Wireless Systems and Networks, 2019, p. 47-58Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Recent progress on backscatter communications enable devices that, assisted by an unmodulated carrier, receive and transmit standard wireless protocols such as IEEE 802.15.4 with sub-milliwatt power consumption. This paradigm, that we call carrier-assisted communications, enables batteryfree devices due to its reduced power consumption. To develop at scale, and integrate seamlessly into networks of unmodified conventional nodes, we need novel protocols at the MAC layer and above that can coordinate the carrier generators with receivers and transmitters while maintaining energy and spectral efficiency. A highly effective tool to develop such protocols is a network simulator. We introduce models for the communication range, energy consumption and other characteristics of carrier-assisted links based on parameters gathered from real-world experiments. We implement the models in Cooja, a well-known simulator, creating the first carrier-assisted communications framework to simulate interoperable battery-free devices alongside conventional sensor nodes. We illustrate how such a tool can offer valuable insights in the development and evaluation of efficient protocols for carrier-assisted communications.

National Category
Communication Systems
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-407784 (URN)978-0-9949886-3-8 (ISBN)
Conference
EWSN '19, Beijing, China, February 25-27, 2019
Available from: 2020-03-28 Created: 2020-03-28 Last updated: 2020-04-01Bibliographically approved
4. TagAlong: Efficient Integration of Battery-free Sensor Tags in Standard Wireless Networks
Open this publication in new window or tab >>TagAlong: Efficient Integration of Battery-free Sensor Tags in Standard Wireless Networks
2020 (English)In: Proceedings of the 19th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Information Processing in Sensor Networks, 2020Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

New battery-free sensor tags that interoperate with unmodified standard IoT devices can extend a sensor network's capabilities in a scalable and cost-effective manner. The tags achieve battery-free operation through backscatter-related techniques, while the standard IoT devices can provide the necessary unmodulated carrier, avoiding additional dedicated infrastructure. However, this approach presents multiple challenges: It requires coordination between nodes transmitting, receiving and generating carrier, adds extra latency and energy consumption to already constrained devices, and increases interference and contention in shared spectrum. We present TagAlong, a medium access mechanism for interoperable sensor tags that, besides coordinating, optimizes the use of carrier generators, minimizing the disruption caused to the operation of the regular nodes.We accomplish this by parallelizing communications with battery-free tags when possible, sharing carriers for multiple tags concurrently and synchronizing communications with tags that share carrier generators. We demonstrate the feasibility of TagAlong in a testbed deployment. In our evaluation we find that it can reduce the duration of the tags' schedule by 60% while improving the energy and spectrum usage by 30% when compared to sequential interrogation with no difference in reliability.

National Category
Communication Systems
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-407785 (URN)10.1109/IPSN48710.2020.00020 (DOI)
Conference
IPSN '20
Available from: 2020-03-28 Created: 2020-03-28 Last updated: 2020-04-01Bibliographically approved
5. A Fast Carrier Scheduling Algorithm for Battery-free Sensor Tags in Commodity Wireless Networks
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A Fast Carrier Scheduling Algorithm for Battery-free Sensor Tags in Commodity Wireless Networks
2020 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

New battery-free sensor tags that interoperate with unmodified standard IoT devices and protocols can extend a sensor network’s capabilities in a scalable and cost-effective manner. The tags achieve battery-free operation through backscatter-related techniques, while the standard IoT devices avoid additional dedicated infrastructure by providing the unmodulated carrier that tags need to communicate. However, this approach requires coordination between devices transmitting, receiving and generating carrier, adds extra latency and energy consumption to already constrained devices, and increases interference and contention in the shared spectrum. We present a scheduling mechanism that optimizes the use of carrier generators, minimizing any disruptions to the regular nodes. We employ timeslots to coordinate the unmodulated carrier while minimizing latency, energy consumption and overhead radio emissions. We propose an efficient scheduling algorithm that parallelizes communications with battery-free tags when possible and shares carriers among multiple tags concurrently. In our evaluation we demonstrate the feasibility and reliability of our approach in testbed experiments. We find that we can significantly reduce the excess latency and energy consumption caused by the addition of sensor tags when compared to sequential interrogation. We show that the gains tend to improve with the network size and that our solution is close to optimal on average.

National Category
Communication Systems
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-407786 (URN)
Conference
INFOCOM 2020, June 13-19, 2020, Las Vegas, Nevada
Available from: 2020-03-28 Created: 2020-03-28 Last updated: 2020-04-01Bibliographically approved

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