A Comparison of the Energy Consumption Properties of Wi-Fi Backscatter and Bluetooth Devices as it Relates to Sensor and Asset Tracking Solutions (2021)

By Ty Pearman & Arun Ravisankar, Comcast Cable

The airwaves around us are continually filled with the invisible signals emanating from and between the Wi-Fi gateways and devices that use them for broadband connectivity, as well as from and between devices that use Bluetooth for connectivity. Naturally, techniques like Radio Frequency Identification (RF ID), which date back to the 1970s, were developed to use those radio waves for object identification. Commonly, you will see RF ID tags affixed as stickers or built into consumer devices, for the purposes of being read at a distance and without line of sight, as with highway toll readers, employee ID badges, etc. The ambient nature of these signals provides the opportunity to “piggy back” on the existing networks, which can reduce the overall power consumption of RF backscatter solutions. This paper examines the performance tradeoffs between different communication protocols used in both sensor and tracking solutions, including RF backscatter, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and LoRa (Long Range). The main area of focus will be around power consumption and data throughput for IoT type solutions. Readers will learn the basics of energy consumption and data transmission rate capabilities from these technologies, along with the power consumption baselines of mainstream IoT devices and how transmission protocols can impact the powering and life of the IoT devices.

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