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Sensor Data, Images Hitch Ride With Wi-Fi-based Solution

Wavelite has commercialized a system from Stanford University that employs a modified Wi-Fi transmission to send everything from temperature and humidity data to pictures to a phone, tablet or laptop.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 13, 2018

A Canadian technology company is releasing a product that employs Wi-Fi transmissions to send sensor data or images wirelessly to a smartphone or other device, using an existing Wi-Fi network and its modified Wi-Fi signal. The technology could enable businesses to set up low-cost sensors around a facility or other location, and to capture pictures, as well as temperature levels or other data, to understand what is occurring there.

Wavelite, a Canadian Internet of Things (IoT) startup spun off from Stanford University research, is commercializing its Wi-Fi-based system, which enables users to set up an automated sensor and tracking system that utilizes a facility's existing Wi-Fi network. The solution, known as HitchHike, was developed by a team of Stanford researchers led by Sachin Katti, an electrical engineering and computer science professor.

The HitchHike system was designed to be a low-cost alternative to RFID or BLE systems, since the data could be captured without requiring a reader appliance or gateway. Instead, the group developed a Wi-Fi tag that could be energized and prompted to transmit by the Wi-Fi router, and to then alter its signal and transmit it to a dedicated smartphone, tablet or computer. In that way, the system does not create a drag on the existing Wi-Fi network. In the meantime, the tag would capture any data from sensors connected to it, and that information would hitch a ride on that transmission.

The researchers, at the time, were using a tag measuring 1.29 inches by 1.94 inches, with a built-in envelope detector, to identify when a Wi-Fi signal had started. It also included a chip and an RF switch to reflect the signal from the router back to the receiving device (a phone, tablet or computer) on a different Wi-Fi channel.

Since Stanford's early work, the technology has been developed and tested by Wavelite, says co-founder and CTO Bahar Partov. "We're taking this technology and trying to make it applicable to demands in the market," she says. Based on requests from potential customers, the firm has made several modifications and upgrades to the system, including enabling it to operate without requiring software updates on a Wi-Fi router. Instead, the solution simply receives existing Wi-Fi signals. It is then able to interpret reflected sensor data with software on the receiving phone or other mobile device.

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