11.08.14

Providing power to the Internet of Things

AUTHOR: Inavate

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been touted as the next step for technology. It aims to have all devices, no matter how simple or complex armed with chips, communicating with each other to better serve the user. The problem however is that the installation of chipsets means that a way must be devised to power them.

Portable devices today, such as smartphones and tablets, run off Lithium ion batteries. But it makes no economic or design sense to equip your kettle with a lithium ion battery pack just to power the limited chipset that would be required to get it connected to the cloud. A team at the University of Washington however are working on a way to address this issue.

The answer may lie in ambient backscatter technology. The Wi-Fi backscatter that has been developed comprises of an ultra-low power tag prototype with an antenna and circuitry that can be added to the design of any everyday object. The tag is capable of monitoring the signals that are all around us every day, for example the signals going between your router and your laptop.

Rather than generate its own signals to communicate with the laptop, the tag instead reflects the signals generated by the router. The varying strengths of the signals reflected are used by the tag to transmit useful information to the laptop.

The current iteration of the tag has communicated with a Wi-Fi device at rates of 1kbps with about two meters between the devices. Researchers plan to extend the range to about 20 meters and have filed patents on the technology. There are also plans to commercialize the technology.