Low-Power Internet of Things Specialist HaiLa Samples Its First "Monolithic" Wi-Fi Backscatter Chip

The BSC2000 chip uses passive backscatter to modify Wi-Fi signals with sensor data — without active transmission.

Extreme low-power Internet of Things (IoT) chip specialist HaiLa Technologies has announced sampling of its BSC2000, developed in partnership with Presto Engineering and claimed to be the "world's first monolithic chip" to implement passive backscatter over Wi-Fi connectivity.

"HaiLa is pleased to have collaborated with Presto Engineering on the silicon implementation of the BSC2000, and we're excited to showcase our technology at CES 2024," says HaiLa president and chief executive officer Derek Kuhn of the company's latest launch. “"his is another step forward in our mission to enable sustainable scaling of IoT over existing wireless infrastructures, helping end-users meet their net-zero goals through a massive reduction in battery waste.

"Presto's long experience in ultra-low power RFID and NFC [Radio Frequency Identification and Near-Field Communication] allowed HaiLa to complement its team with expert resources embedded into the development process, delivering the completed BSC2000 ASIC as one team."

The BSC2000 chip builds on HaiLa's core passive backscatter technology, designed to dramatically reduce the power requirements of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and other embedded system. The idea is simple: a received radio signal is modified in such a way to embed data, such as readings from a sensor, before being reflected — allowing a received to pick up the modification and decode the data without the sensor having to make an energy-hungry active transmission of its own.

The core concept of backscatter communication is protocol-agnostic, requiring only a signal which can be received and reflected with the required modifications. HaiLa's focus on using Wi-Fi signals as their base comes as a result of its broad deployment, the company explains, though it has not ruled out building similar devices for other wireless communications standards in the future.

HaiLa first demonstrated the capabilities of its design with the BSC1000, supporting IEEE 802.11b Wi-Fi networks but offering only the analog front-end (AFE) side of the equation — leaving everything else to an off-chip field-programmable gate array (FPGA). The BSC2000, by contrast, is a monolithic chip combining the AFE from the BSC1000 with a baseband processor — doing away with the need for the FPGA.

The core backscatter technology isn't exclusive to Wi-Fi, with HaiLa hinting at other standards to follow. (📹: HaiLa)

The company is also working on the BSC3000, its first system-on-chip (SoC), which combines the AFE and baseband processor with a RISC-V microcontroller core and the ability to switch between passive backscatter and active transmission modes.

The BSC2000 is now sampling as an evaluation chip, HaiLa has confirmed, with a full development kit and a supporting "backscatter tag" demonstration kit available; both are being demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week. Pricing, however, has not been publicly disclosed, with interested parties invited to get in touch with the company through its website.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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