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Long range, low power sensors lead to better health wearables

By Tim Sandle     Sep 14, 2017 in Technology
Seattle - A new type of long range, low power operating sensor has been designed. The sensor has been designed for use with next generation health wearables. The sensor may also assist with farming and environmental data collection.
There’s considerable investment in terms of technological design and capital into health wearables, especially with devices that collect data by taking readings based on movement, chemical analysis or visual recognition. Progress is hampered by the need for the technology to be embedded in flexible materials, so that it does not break, and for the technology to run off minimal power.
Even when the low power issue is addressed, the range of the devices to send signals to apps so that data can be analyzed is limited. Many devices need to be positioned in close proximity to receivers.
These concerns appear to have been addressed by University of Washington scientists, according to Engadget. Overcoming these issues has been set out by the lead researcher Dr. Shyam Gollakota, in an interview with the University of Washington website. Dr. Gollakota said: “Until now, devices that can communicate over long distances have consumed a lot of power. The trade off in a low-power device that consumes microwatts of power is that its communication range is short. Now we've shown that we can offer both, which will be pretty game-changing for a lot of different industries and applications."
The final product consists of three components. These are: a source that emits a radio signal; sensors which function to encode information in reflections of that signal; plus an inexpensive off-the-shelf receiver that decodes the information.
The new technology shows that wearable devices can run on almost zero power can transmit data across distances of up to 2.8 kilometers. Details about how this feat was achieved are shown in the video below:
The device is a long-range backscatter system. The device works by utilizing reflected radio signals to transmit data at extremely low power and low cost. Studies show the device can achieve reliable coverage throughout 4800-square-foot house; as well as an office area of 41 rooms, plus a one-acre vegetable farm. The farm application adds the collection of environmental parameters that could assist with the digital transformation of farming.
The new sensors have been presented to the UbiComp (‘Ubiquitous Computing’) 2017 conference, which took place in September 2017. A white paper has been produced, which is titled “LoRa Backscatter: Enabling The Vision of Ubiquitous Connectivity.”
If you found this article of interest, please read the related healthcare technology feature "New 'electronic skin' expands health monitoring."
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