Researchers at the University of Washington are developing what they call the “first analog video backscatter system” for high-definition video streaming. This new technology would allow for HD video streaming from low-power or no-power devices like security cameras and wearables, smartwatches or smartglasses. The University of Washington says the system burns as low as 250uW for HD video streaming, which is 1,000x – 10,000x less power than existing approaches, by eliminating the power-hungry components of a typical camera—enabling battery-free HD streaming from devices such as lightweight wearables or wireless security cameras.
Check out their short explanation video of the technology below.
Video streaming has traditionally been considered an extremely power-hungry operation. Existing approaches optimize the camera and communication modules individually to minimize their power consumption. However, designing a video streaming device requires power-consuming hardware components and computationally intensive video codec algorithms that interface the camera and the communication modules.
For example, monochrome HD video streaming at 60 fps requires an ADC operating at a sampling rate of 55.3 MHz and a video codec that can handle uncompressed data being generated at 442 Mbps. We present a novel architecture that enables HD video streaming from a low-power, wearable camera to a nearby mobile device. To achieve this, we present an “analog” video backscatter technique that feeds analog pixels from the photo-diodes directly to the backscatter hardware, thereby eliminating power-consuming hardware components, such as ADCs and codecs.
To evaluate our work, we simulate an ASIC, which achieves 60 fps 720p and 1080p HD video streaming for 321 µW and 806 µW, respectively. This translates to 1000x to 10,000x lower power than it used for existing digital video streaming approaches. Our empirical results also show that we can harvest sufficient energy to enable battery-free 30 fps 1080p video streaming at up to 8~feet. Finally, we design a proof-of-concept prototype with off-the-shelf hardware components that successfully backscatter 720p HD video at 10 fps up to 16 feet.
This looks like a very interesting project, we’ll see if the University of Washington researchers can make this a viable solution or product.