PLatter: On the Feasibility of Building-scale Power Line Backscatter


Junbo Zhang, Carnegie Mellon University; Elahe Soltanaghai, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Artur Balanuta, Reese Grimsley, Swarun Kumar, and Anthony Rowe, Carnegie Mellon University


This paper explores the feasibility of reusing power lines in a large industrial space to enable long-range backscatter communication between a single reader and ultra-low-power backscatter sensors on the walls that are physically not connected to these power lines, but merely in their vicinity. Such a system could significantly improve the data rate and range of backscatter communication with only a single reader installed, by using pre-existing power lines as communication media. We present PLatter, a building-scale backscatter system that allows ultra-low-power backscatter sensors or tags attached to walls with power lines right behind them to communicate with a reader several hundred feet away. PLatter achieves this by inducing and modulating parasitic impedance on power lines with the tag toggling between two loads in specialized patterns. We present a detailed evaluation of both the strengths and weaknesses of PLatter on a large industrial testbed with power lines up to 300 feet long, demonstrating a maximum data rate of 4 Mbps.

NSDI '22 Open Access Sponsored by
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)

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@inproceedings {278304,
author = {Junbo Zhang and Elahe Soltanaghai and Artur Balanuta and Reese Grimsley and Swarun Kumar and Anthony Rowe},
title = {{PLatter}: On the Feasibility of Building-scale Power Line Backscatter},
booktitle = {19th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI 22)},
year = {2022},
isbn = {978-1-939133-27-4},
address = {Renton, WA},
pages = {897--911},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = apr

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