What if a dead phone could send text messages? What if smartwatches could send WiFi signals without using up all their battery power? That's the idea behind backscatter wireless devices, which reflect ambient wireless signals instead of generating the signals from scratch. That's a lot easier on the battery than conventional wireless tech, using approximately .01 percent of the conventional wireless tech, and it could make a big difference in the new generation of wearables, which tend to avoid Wi-Fi entirely.
New research from UCLA and NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab has backscatter tech working more powerfully than ever before, sending 3Mb per second signals across more than 8 feet. Just a year ago, backscatter signals were limited to just 2Kb per second. The tech is still a long way from being used in consumer devices, but it's improving at a remarkable rate.