Two to Tango: Hybrid Light and Backscatter Networks for Next Billion Devices
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The growth rate of Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices sold globally is constantly lower than the forecast. This deceleration is caused in part by the need for batteries and the scalability cost for their replacement. Backscatter has attracted significant interest over the past couple of years to enable sustainable sensing devices by eliminating batteries. IoT devices have been designed for transmitting sensed data with backscatter, but the question of efficient reception of data with battery-free devices is still open. As shown in this paper, classical low-power Radio Frequency (RF) envelope detectors are affected by low sensitivity, false detection alarms, and low energy efficiency. We argue that Light Fidelity (LiFi) can provide downlink and harvesting medium as LED lights are becoming pervasively deployed for illumination. We show, for the first time, that the advantages of LiFi and RF backscatter can be combined for battery-free communication. We design a low-power platform that leverages the complementary nature of these two mediums. We demonstrate that our platform removes energy-inefficiency in the downlink reception typical of RF backscatter, and significantly expands the deployment scenarios for battery-free tags when compared to conventional single-technology designs.