What if some of the “non-living” things we use daily, like our clothes could communicate to us? I was astonished when I read non-living things will soon communicate. That would be quite something, wouldn’t it! Well, two graduate students of the University of Washington, Seattle has made it almost possible.
A simple idea that led to an innovative invention
Non-living things will soon communicate!
While in college, Vikram Iyer, an electronics engineering graduate student and Anran Wang, a computer science graduate student were doing their research on newer kinds of wireless communication that consumed very less power. During this time, they wanted to create something innovative for their project. They looked all around them for inspiration.
And one day it just hit them, what better medium to channel power from than the air! Air is present everywhere. And there are so many radio stations in the city that transmit radio signals through the air all the time. However, during the initial stages it was a big question of doubt if they’d be able to harness the power from the radio waves without affecting the working of the radio station.
They researched and made a device that used up less power to alter the frequency of a particular radio wave present in the air (emitted from a radio station). Along with a change in frequency, the information carried by the actual radio signal would be overwritten with the desired information. The new frequency would be one that wasn’t in use to avoid any unnecessary interference. Since there are endless frequency levels, that wouldn’t pose as a problem. Since the device only had to capture a radio wave and alter it to a different frequency, the device didn’t need much power as opposed to the power it would’ve have consumed if the device had to generate radio waves.
What is back-scattering?
The basic principle being used here is back-scattering. So, what is back-scattering? When a wave or signal hits an obstacle, it bounces in a pseudo-random direction. This is where the technology comes to play. When a signal hits the device, it alters the frequency and sends new information, on its rebound course.
In general, radio stations work using the principle of frequency modulation. What is modulation? Modulation is the process in which a low frequency message signal is varied in accordance to a high frequency signal called the carrier signal, to obtain a modulated signal.
The very first experiment that Iyer and Wang tried out with their new technology was on a concert poster. The poster had an antenna attached to it such that a person in close proximity with it could tune in and listen to the poster, advertising for their concert!
Similarly, they conducted another experiment – this time with clothes. They stitched conductive threads onto a shirt, along with sensors to detect the wearer’s heart rate. If the heart rates turned abnormal, then alerts would be instantly sent to the person’s phone. How can this help non-living things to communicate?
Talking advertisements and sign boards are the future
Iyer believes that this technology can be put to good use in in-numerous different ways. He suggests it could be used to alert pedestrians, or on sign boards and advertisements.
However, nowadays people are always hooked on to their mobile phones, listening to songs on their playlists instead of using FM radio stations, and this could be a major pitfall to the future development of this technology. So, be ready and wait for the talking non-living things, because non-living things will soon communicate.