Advantages of ambient backscatter | disadvantages of ambient backscatter

This page covers advantages and disadvantages of ambient backscatter. It mentions ambient backscatter advantages or benefits and ambient backscatter disadvantages or drawbacks.

What is ambient backscatter?

It is a new type of wireless communication system. It utilizes ambient RF signals around for communication between devices. Moreover it does not require battery as it derives its operational power using simple harvesting circuit from ambient RF energy.

It is expected to realize low power communication needs of IoT applications. It makes use of ambient RF signals around us such as TV signals, cellular tower signals, wifi signals from routers and so on.

Ambient backscatter architecture
Image courtesy: arXiv (Ambient Backscatter Communications: A Contemporary Survey)

An ambient backscatter device communicates by absorption and reflection of RF signals. The device uses harvesting circuit to convert received ambient RF energy into DC voltage. The charge is being stored in capacitor for its operation. The harvester part also has power management system which takes care of utilization of stored power.

ambient backscatter transceiver
Image courtesy: arXiv

In backscatter communication system, device communicates by modulating reflection of incident RF signals rather than having generation of its own RF signals. Ambient RF signal is received by backscatter receiver part as shown. Refer architecture and working of ambient backscatter >>.

Benefits or advantages of ambient backscatter

Following are the benefits or advantages of ambient backscatter:
➨It does not require battery for its operation. The collected power is enough to power small board with sensors such as LEDs, touch sensors, display etc.
➨It does not require any specific ICs and analog components. Ambient circuit can be developed using common components and hence it is less expensive.
➨Ambient backscatter circuit size is very small like a carrom coil.
➨It uses ambient RF signals around from TV or cellular towers for communication. As it does not use its own RF generation and derives power from ambient RF signals, it is more power/energy efficient system.
➨Due to its low energy consumption and battery less operation, it is ideal for use in IoT (Internet of Things) based devices.
➨As it utilizes existing RF signals, there is no need for allocation of new frequency spectrum.

Drawbacks or disadvantages of ambient backscatter

Following are the drawbacks or disadvantages of ambient backscatter:
➨As it uses ambient RF signals and it does not have its own RF source, it is not possible to control RF power level and RF frequency.
➨It supports low data rate and lower coverage range (few tens of meters). To cover wide area, multiple such devices are required to be installed.
➨It can collect very small amount of electricity which can be utilized for few components and devices.
➨Ambient backscatter technology face severe security issues due to dependency on external RF signal. There is no control over ambient RF signals.
➨There is no centralised controller to coordinate all the communication. Hence system designers needs to have their own protocol for such system requirement.

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