The National Science Foundation is funding a project to create distortion-tolerant communications for wireless networks that can work with very little power. The aim of the research is to improve the wireless sensors deployed in remote areas where the wi-fi is reliant on batteries or energy-harvesting devices for power.
“Ultra-low power consumption is one of the most formidable challenges faced by the next generation of wireless sensing systems,” said Jingxian Wu, assistant professor of electrical engineering. “These systems will need to operate without interruption for multiple years and with extremely limited battery capacity or limited ability to scavenge energy from other devices. This is why the NSF was interested in our research.”
Since batteries or energy-harvesting devices such as solar panels are usually the power source of ultra-low-power wireless communication devices, lower power consumption is greatly desired. One of the main uses of power in wi-fi is to limit or minimize distortion.
So the researchers decided to allow for controlled distortion rather than limiting or minimizing it — this would allow their wireless systems far less power than conventional technologies.
“If we accept the fact that distortion is inevitable in practical communication systems, why not directly design a system that is naturally tolerant to distortion?” Wu said. “Allowing distortion instead of minimizing it, our proposed distortion-tolerant communication can operate in rate levels beyond the constraints imposed by Shannon channel capacity.”
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“Shannon channel capacity is the maximum rate at which distortion-free information can be transmitted over a communication channel.”
“The researchers’ work will accelerate the widespread deployment of ultra-low power wireless networks used for surveillance, environmental and structure monitoring, and biomedical sensing. These applications have the ability to provide early warnings to prevent catastrophic events, such as structural failures, to improve public safety and homeland security and to promote the health and well being of the general public.”