Turning everyday objects into radio stations

Capturing radio signals that are already in the air, then adding data and reflecting the combination back to passersby’s smartphones is how marketing and smart city communications should take place in the future, say researchers.

By doing so, one can use everyday objects as radio stations, say scientists from University of Washington. A kind of smart-poster would be one use for the technology, they say.

Bus stop billboards, for example, would be able to broadcast a message to be picked up by a transit customer’s FM radio already built into their smartphone. The “singing poster,” as they call it, wouldn’t need to be powered with any great oomph—the radio signal reflective technology consumes “close to zero power,” the researchers claim in an article on the university’s website.

How the broadcasting system works

A form of backscattering radio is behind the system. That’s a way of encoding data in existing radio signals, then mirroring them back at a receiver. The existing signal’s data isn’t affected because an adjacent, unused frequency is used for the re-broadcast. The already-on radio wave provides much of the power.

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