back to article Chirpy, chirpy, cheap, cheap: Printable IoT radios for 10 cents each

One of the favoured low-power radio techniques in Internet of Things research is “backscatter communications”: the transmitter sends a signal to a Thing, and the Thing modulates its data onto the reflection, and that's then decoded by a receiver. The problem with such a passive comms scheme is that its distance is limited to …

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Oh sh*t

Cheap technology like this will only encourage the mould-like growth of the internet of tat. Can't we stop them now?

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Re: Oh sh*t

You missed the hint in the article that they are looking at agricultural applications. Technologies related to IoT have been in industry and farming for years - they save people time and money. If you're not aware of this, perhaps you should learn more before commenting?

More generally, weren't you ever taught to be wary of dogma?

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Re: Oh sh*t

2000 sqare ft homes are not uncommon in the States so uptake for this technology is likely to occur for domestic IoT at least as much as for market gardens. No matter what the target market is initially if there is money to be made from a technology it will be.

Perhaps you should gain a better understanding of market forces?

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Re: Oh sh*t

"You missed the hint in the article that they are looking at agricultural applications."

I'm sure there will be plenty of scope for abusing the technology beyond farming.

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Re: Oh sh*t

If you see IoT as an unwelcome inevitability - because it has so many existing applications - then surely it's more productive to steer it than to condemn it? Do you try in vain to dam a river, or do you channel it?

It seems that rather than saying 'I don't want insecure, data-leaking IoT' which is a reasonable position, you're saying 'No IoT for anyone, even if it might help them do their job'.

Market forces will lead to more IoT devices across a large range of sectors such as farming, industry, and healthcare. It is therefore sensible to discuss how to mitigate the downsides - insisting on better security, legislation about user data hoarding, insist that devices only communicate on your local network unless you explicitly give informed permission etc

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Re: Oh sh*t

'Do you try in vain to dam a river, or do you channel it?'

To be fair I think there's a whole engineering discipline devoted to successfully damming rivers, so I think that might not be the analogy you were looking for.

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Anonymous Coward

'Do you try in vain to dam a river, or do you channel it?'

The answer is beaver.

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Re: Oh sh*t

There are many examples of connected items that pre date the IoT acronym, I was working on and trying to develop a market for water treatment equipment at, he turn of the century. For industry it is an important game changer and will become an essential part of industr if it isn't already but for the domestic markets, much of what is being touted is gimmicky crap that is often unnecessary as well as being almost criminally insecure.

I have no problem with genuinely useful IoT items but I do object to poorly designed and thought out rubbish being pushed onto a largely ignorant population.

I have yet to hear of any connected thing that will make me part with my money and not expecting anything soon.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh sh*t

"Do you try in vain to dam a river, or do you channel it?"

But this ain't a river. It's a frickin' FLOOD, and there's no high ground to which to flee. And we've seen what happens when one tries to channel a flood, especially a BIG one.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh sh*t

Cheap technology like this will only encourage the mould-like growth of the internet of tat. Can't we stop them now?

Yes, please. Not for IoT, but this is almost perfect for intercept applications :(.

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Official reg units please

Can we please have this in units of Cricket Pitches or Tea Trays so El Reg readers know what area is covered.

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Re: Official reg units please

Cricket pitches are tricky because they're variable in dimension. Only minima are specified by the Laws. I mean, which pitch do you use as the standard-bearer? Lord's? MCG? If we use a ballpark figure, say 1 1/4 ha, then about 1/3 of the pitch, though since these coverage areas are circular, you'll probably need four to properly cover the pitch.

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Re: Official reg units please

@charles 9

No, no...a cricket pitch is the bit in the middle, which is one chain long (0.9153 brontosaui). the field can vary in size.

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Re: Official reg units please

Typical of the USians to come up with weird measurements which are meaningless in the rest of the world. I mean, who but a seriously rich capitalist bstard has a house that's 70ft square for heaven's sake?

And 'a one acre vegetable farm' FFS? One acre I can handle, but vegetable farm? Does the range depend on what sort of vegetable you grow? Better range with carrots than maize? Is it affected if you have a few pigs and chickens? Or could you have a cow and use the horns for a repeater transmitter? And does the soil type affect things? These questions must be answered. The point about standards is they are standard - a one acre vegetable farm is fine, provided they specify the type of crop and location.

Sheesh, colonials!

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Re: Official reg units please

> And does the soil type affect things?

Soil gave John Deere his start. As farming moved West from the East coast, farmers encountered a thicker soil that clogged the iron ploughs that were commonly used. Deere developed a self-scouring steel plough, allowing more continuous ploughing.

Fast forward a century and a half to find controversy over DRM in John Deere tractors.

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Re: Official reg units please

"a ballpark figure"

Over paid, over sexed and over here with their ballparks.

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Re: Official reg units please

4,800ft2 (for non-Americans, about 445m2)

When we've agreed on the units, can we also agree on the number of digits of precision?

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Re: Official reg units please

Cricket pitches are tricky because they're variable in dimension. Only minima are specified by the Laws. I mean, which pitch do you use as the standard-bearer? Lord's? MCG? If we use a ballpark figure, say 1 1/4 ha, then about 1/3 of the pitch, though since these coverage areas are circular, you'll probably need four to properly cover the pitch.

If you're going to use a ballpark figure then there is only one to use: the original Yankee Stadium

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Re: Official reg units please

Tea Tray = 22 beermats

Cricket Pitch = 180 Tea Trays

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Re: Official reg units please

@Dave 126

Deere developed a self-scouring steel plough, allowing more continuous ploughing.

I do find El Reg so much more educational than the Fail Online!

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Devil

Help

I just want to know, who will be the first to receive a complaint of a flat battery in a passive IoT Thing (or transponder as we dinosaurs call them)? And will they manage to keep a straight face?

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Unhappy

want to know, who will be the first to receive a complaint of a flat battery in a passive IoT?

No one.

A printed battery is in fact still a battery.

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Re: Help

"Have you tried unplugging it, and plugging it back in?"

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We don't need no stinkin' square law...

So, given that the typical un-powered RFID keyfobs I've seen work at a maximum of 10cm from the readers (and if you want a metre or so in come the square-foot-sized antennas) - is this technology putting out chocolate-melting radar-levels of power (and comparable dishes) on the TX side, or is it simply made of solid magic...?

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Re: We don't need no stinkin' square law...

Those key fobs are operating at much lower frequencies (125kHz or 13.57MHz against 868MHz), do not use any sort of intelligent modulation and are (as you say) entirely passive. Given that the article states: "small enough to use flexible electronics (including printed batteries)" that doesn't appear to be the case here, though given the quoted power figures I imagine the TX stage must be largely passive.

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So a slim chance I might get useable bandwidth this century?

100 of these and I'd double my current adsl.

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Unhappy

I have skimmed the report. Interesting for what it leaves out as what it puts in.

It is pretty clever but there a few things they are rather coy about.

1) This is not "printed electronics." They are saying that it could be powered by a printed battery. The encoder is way too complex to be printed, and will be a chip. No surprise there as a cutting edge printed transistor is about 50MHz max. No use for GHz RF comms.

2)That chip does not exist yet. They simulated it. Based on that sim they expect it to run on the battery they describe.

3) Yes the range is very impressive for the power (theoretically) required.

4)They had to reverse engineer the lowest level protocols. IOW either they pay a license fee over if Jeeva Technology (company some of them have formed to market it) goes further, or expect some legal grief in an East Texas court on IP/Patent/Copyright/Whatever else-we-can-stick-them-with from the proprietary protocol owners.

So still got a fairly complex mixed mode chip to get mfg and tested.

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Re: I have skimmed the report. Interesting for what it leaves out as what it puts in.

"4)They had to reverse engineer the lowest level protocols. IOW either they pay a license fee over if Jeeva Technology (company some of them have formed to market it) goes further, or expect some legal grief in an East Texas court on IP/Patent/Copyright/Whatever else-we-can-stick-them-with from the proprietary protocol owners."

OR they improved upon it enough to file for a derivative patent, allowing them to have a bargaining chip in a patent war.

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Anonymous Coward

Please give one of those to that Easy Able station on HF running several megawatts

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Backscatter data retrieval has been around since the 1940s. In 1945 Theramin made a passive, unpowered bug that operated for about 7 years. These guys seem to have increased the bandwidth, but not the range.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thing_%28listening_device%29

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Unhappy

"These guys seem to have increased the bandwidth, but not the range."

Yes and no.

The system uses a "spread spectrum" system, like GPS. In GPS the received bandwidth (for the civilian signal) is 1.024MHz. The actual data stream is only 50 bps.

For this it's about 18bps, but again very wide radio bandwidth.

OTOH "The Thing" carried voice through mechanical FM of carrier in the 100s, or 1000s of MHz, so its bandwidth was about that of a low pass voice signal, 3-5KHz.

The trick (in theory) is you can interrogate lots of these IoT with different spreading codes (maybe).

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Happy

Again

"The Thing"

.. I lose 20 minutes on something random and fascinating on El Reg.

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