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These sensors could widen Internet of Things

Skin sensor patch
This flexible epidermal patch prototype successfully transmitted information across a 3,300-square-foot atrium. Such a patch could be used to collect and wirelessly transmit medical data. (University of Washington Photo / Dennis Wise)

Researchers at the University of Washington have been working for years on a radio backscatter system that can monitor ultra-low-power sensors wirelessly, and now they’ve fine-tuned the system to pick up signals from more than a mile away.

They say the technology could lead to “smart” contact lenses and skin patches that can track your vital signs and send in the data for instant medical analysis.

And that’s not all: Long-range backscatter sensors might well open up whole new frontiers for the Internet of Things.

“People have been talking about embedding connectivity into everyday objects such as laundry detergent, paper towels and coffee cups for years, but the problem is the cost and power consumption to achieve this,” Vamsi Talla, chief technology officer of Jeeva Wireless, said today in a UW news release. “This is the first wireless system that can inject connectivity into any device with very minimal cost.”

Jeeva Wireless, which was founded by Talla and other UW researchers, is aiming to commercialize the technology within the next few months.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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