Researchers Put Batteries On Notice, Beam Power To Devices Via Wi-Fi

With the "Internet Of Things" supposed to be a major part of our future, there are a number of challenges to conquer. For wearables, such as smartwatches, the issue of power isn't a serious one, as people can just plug them in at night and have them ready-to-go in the morning. But many consider that adding a smartwatch to their list of devices to keep constantly charged is challenging enough. What's going to happen when other wearables come along, or IoT devices, such as surveillance cameras?

Believe it or not, it might be possible to help keep some of these devices alive with the same Wi-Fi signals we've been using for so long. This is a solution being evaluated by Vamsi Talla and others at the University of Washington, and ultimately, what they've come up with has been coined power over Wi-Fi, or "PoWi-Fi".

Power Over Wifi

What's most surprising about this tech is that it can be taken advantage of by any router, as long as the device to be powered has a strong enough signal. To amplify this, the engineers outfitted certain devices with antennas, and in some special cases, rechargeable batteries and energy-storing capacitors.

Ultimately, we're not quite there yet -- but the potential is huge. Because Wi-Fi doesn't keep a constant connection with the devices it's associated with, the engineers altered a router to continually beam random noise over multiple channels, which is in effect, converted to energy. This technology has even been demoed with a small temperature sensor that was equipped with a modest camera.

TRENDnet Router

Throughout their tests, the PoWi-Fi's engineers found that the overall impact on network performance is almost non-existent, something made even more likely when the router itself is of a good quality.

What I'm most curious about, which isn't covered, is just how efficient this kind of technology is. If it requires 50W-per-hour for a router to charge a device at 5 or 10% efficiency, that's not going to be that tempting. But, it'd still be an option to help power those devices that can't easily have power cables routed inside the home.

Tags:  Battery, wireless, wi-fi