Intellectual Merit: Ultra-low power consumption is one of the most formidable challenges faced by the next generation wireless sensing systems, which are expected to operate uninterrupted over years or decades under extremely limited battery capacity or small energy scavenging devices. The goal of this research project is to advance the knowledge of ultra-low power wireless networks with a new paradigm of distortion-tolerant communication, which deliberately allows controlled distortion in a system. If we accept the fact that distortion is inevitable in practical communication systems, why not directly design a system that is naturally tolerant to distortion? Allowing instead of minimizing distortion, the proposed distortion-tolerant communication can operate in rate regions beyond the constraints imposed by Shannon channel capacity, the ultimate limit of distortion-free communications, thus achieving significant power reduction unrivaled by conventional technologies. The research approach is to systematically construct the theories, design tools, enabling technologies, and prototypes of ultra-low power distortion-tolerant wireless networks, which can be used for applications such as long-term structure health monitoring, biomedical sensing, and other wireless monitoring systems. The distortion-tolerant communication design approach is radically different from the error-minimization, throughput-maximization, and/or latency-minimization design criteria that dominate the current communication research. The new theories and technologies are developed by exploiting the unique features of wireless monitoring systems, such as delay-tolerance, distortion-tolerance, low data rate, and spatial data correlation, which provide extra degrees of freedom in the network design. The distortion-tolerant communication will enable innovative theories and technologies that are capable of coping with the unique challenges and opportunities arising from ultra-low power communications.
Broader Impacts: The outcomes of the proposed research and education activities will accelerate the wide range deployment of ultra-low power wireless networks for environmental and structure monitoring, surveillance, and biomedical sensing, which can provide early warning to prevent catastrophic results, improve public safety and homeland security, and promote the health and well-being of the general public. Outreach activities, such as annual visits to high schools and minority institutions for interactive project demonstrations, will attract more underrepresented students to pursue a career path in science and engineering.