Ultra-light Wireless: Radically rethinking radios to peer into the minds of insects in flight

Over time, the energy cost of computation has steadily fallen due to progressive advances predicted by Moore’s Law, while the energy cost of communication remains fundamentally limited by the signal power required to overcome noise and interference at the receiver. Across a diverse space of power-limited wireless devices, including sensor networks and mobile devices, it is often assumed that the energy cost of communication is dominant. This assumption has driven both algorithm design as well as platform design across a wide variety of systems.

This talk will challenge this assumption by showing how a radical rethinking of the wireless link can push the burdens of energy cost and complexity from edge nodes to access points. Motivated by the desire to understand flight control in insects, we have developed tiny wireless backpacks for dragonflies that acquire and transmit neural and EMG data from flying insects at rate of 5 Mbps. Remarkably, by communicating with modulated scattering rather than traditional radios, we have achieved a communication energy cost of only 4.9 pJ/bit, over 100X lower than traditional approaches. Using wireless power transfer to eliminate the battery, the backpack weighs only 38 mg, less than half the weight of a postage stamp.

April 25 @ 12:30
12:30 pm (1h)

Discovery Building, Orchard View Room

Matt Reynolds