Researchers Create a No-Power Internet of Things

Researchers at the University of Washington have devised a way for battery-free devices to skim a connective link from errant WiFi signals, potentially increasing the reach of the Internet of Things to include just about any thing.

What's the Latest?


The so-called Internet of Things promises an infinitely connected network of near infinite information. In the near future, network-connected sensors will measure everything from your baby's heart rate to the temperature in your house to the moisture levels on a factory floor. There's just one problem: any connected device must have a sustained power source such as a battery or an electrical cord in order to transmit information to the Internet. That means heavier, more costly devices that use more power. Having a way to inexpensively power and connect these devices--potentially numbering in the billions--is currently keeping them from market success.

What's the Big Idea?

Researchers at the University of Washington have devised a way for battery-free devices to skim a connective link from errant WiFi signals, potentially increasing the reach of the Internet of Things to include just about any thing. The new tool, called a backscatter, looks like a thin plate of metal that works by "looking" for WiFi signals moving between the router and a laptop or smartphone.  

They encode data by either reflecting or not reflecting the Wi-Fi router’s signals, slightly changing the wireless signal. Wi-Fi-enabled devices like laptops and smartphones would detect these minute changes and receive data from the tag. In this way, your [battery-free] smart watch could download emails or offload your workout data onto a Google spreadsheet.

Read more at University of Washington News

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Related Articles

How schizophrenia is linked to common personality type

Both schizophrenics and people with a common personality type share similar brain patterns.

(shutterstock)
Mind & Brain
  • A new study shows that people with a common personality type share brain activity with patients diagnosed with schizophrenia.
  • The study gives insight into how the brain activity associated with mental illnesses relates to brain activity in healthy individuals.
  • This finding not only improves our understanding of how the brain works but may one day be applied to treatments.
Keep reading Show less

Human skeletal stem cells isolated in breakthrough discovery

It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.

Image: Nissim Benvenisty
Surprising Science
  • Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
  • These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
  • The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Keep reading Show less

How exercise helps your gut bacteria

Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.

National Institutes of Health
Surprising Science
  • Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
  • Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
  • Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
Keep reading Show less