SAN JOSE, Calif. — A veteran RF engineering manager claims he can demonstrate a wireless technology with significantly longer range and lower power than what’s available today. His startup, IoT Freeway, is aiming its approach at the emerging Internet of Things.
Afshin Zand has a demo based on off-the-shelf discrete. He wants $12 million to build RF chips that implement it. For another $16 million he estimates a satellite-based version of the technology could cover the planet.
$12 million gets 50 km range; $28 million covers developing receivers and satellites with 1,000 km range, covering the Earth with low-orbit satellites at $10,000 for IoT –no radio towers would be needed.
Zand shared details of his technology with a wireless engineering manager at a top 100 semiconductor company. He was told the company would fund his chip design if he could show a carrier willing to support it, but that’s an uphill job given carriers’ laser-like focus on their cellular networks and IoT variants such as LTE MTC.
IoT Freeway claims an RF chip using its approach would support a 50 km range at 30-100 microwatts transmit power. It could deliver “location to centimeter accuracy if you want it,” Zand said. “If the update rate from an IoT sensor is a few or several times a day, it needs no [lifetime] battery replacement [because] it can harvest RF energy from environment,” he said.
The device could be packed into a quarter-inch cube and be built for less than a dollar. Data rates could vary with the requirements of apps, ranging from Kbits to Gbits/second and is inherently secure, he said.
Zand is keeping tight wraps on the technology which is believed to run at 3 GHz, although he said it could run over any unlicensed band.
It’s an entirely new communications system, a new phy and modulation scheme. The way it works depends on the application. This is a quantum leap over CDMA.
The description sounds similar to startup Magnacom, but Zand had not heard of the company. Separately, startup Artemis claims roughly similar wireless breakthroughs.
Zand has an engineering degree from MIT with post grad work at Harvard. He was a director of systems architecture at Centillium Communications, a DSL pioneer.
Like the developers of CDMA, Zand studied under comms guru Claude Shannon. He also was a partner with Shannon in a startup that proposed synchronous CDMA as an approach for copper DSL networks, a proposal that failed.
It was another “new phy and modulation over twisted pair, but we did not have the industry connections, so DMT of Amati at Stanford became the standard,” Zand said.
A decade ago, Zand had an aha moment when the concept of the new technology came to him.
I had an epiphany that I could apply what I learned from Shannon -- as well as what I learned from my work in the industry and with regulators -- to use spectrum as efficiently as possible for [sensor] applications. What [Shannon] said was largely mathematical about the physics of it. It took a lot to turn that into something in the real world.
Zand claims he has made some progress getting the attention of at least one carrier, but he clearly is seeking more connections with carriers, their equipment vendors and people in vertical markets. “Existing technologies are fundamentally incapable of serving the needs of IoT,” he said.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times