ULTRA Low Power Wi-Fi could be a possibility in the near future with the development of a Wi-Fi reflector link.
Currently, Wi-Fi technology requires every device to carry a transmitter, which drains a lot of power, making it ill-suited for smaller embedded and wearable devices with smaller batteries.
UCLA researchers in collaboration with JPL have developed a WiFi backscatter reflector link, which works by reflecting existing Wi-Fi signals present in the environment to communicate with a router or other Wi-Fi source.
The device does not generate a Wi-Fi signal; it just requires one to be present. This technology consumes only 0.01% of the power of a regular network link.
To date, JPL researchers Adrian Tang, Nacer Chahat and Rod Kim together with UCLA faculty Frank Chang have demonstrated reflector links up to 3 Mb/s at ranges of up to 2.5m in the laboratory. With more advanced signal processing, the devices could eventually operate up to 20 meters with data rates of around 50 Mb/s).
One year ago, backscatter signals were limited to just 2KB/second, so the speed boost with the latest research is making waves in the science community.