2017: Freerider, Backscatter Communication Using Commodity Radios (CoNEXT)

At the CoNEXT 2017 conference in Seoul, South Korea, we introduced the design and implementation of FreeRider, the first system to enable backscatter communication with multiple commodity radios, such as 802.11g/n WiFi, ZigBee, and Bluetooth, while these radios are simultaneously used for productive data communication. Furthermore, we are, to our knowledge, the first to implement and evaluate a multi-tag system.

The key technique used by FreeRider is codeword translation, where a tag can transform a codeword present in the original excitation signal into another valid codeword from the same codebook during backscattering. In other words, the backscattered signal is still a valid WiFi, ZigBee, or Bluetooth signal. Therefore, commodity radios decode the backscattered signal and extract the tag’s embedded information. More importantly, FreeRider does codeword translation regardless of the data transmitted by these radios. Therefore, these radios can still do productive data communication. FreeRider accomplishes codeword translation by modifying one or more of the three dimensions of a wireless signal — amplitude, phase and frequency. A tag ensures that the modified signal is still comprised of valid codewords that come the same codebook as the original excitation signal. We built a hardware prototype of FreeRider, and our empirical evaluations show a data rate of ∼60kbps in single tag mode, 15kbps in multi-tag mode, and a backscatter communication distance up to 42m when operating on 802.11g/n WiFi.