IoT powered by wireless signals

1) Sustainability problem: Energy

Every internet connected device needs a power source, which could be a battery or a power cord. With the increasingly ubiquitous IoT, where more and more small devices are deployed to measure and record all kinds of data to make cities smarter, making sure each and every device doesn’t run out of power could be a problem.

2) Technology solution

  • This article in MIT Technology Review describes a new technology that lets small gadgets power themselves and communicate using energy harvested from existing wireless signals nearby, like TV, radio, cell-phone or WiFi.
  • Researchers from the University of Washington that are developing this new technique have demonstrated it working on internet connected temperature and motion sensors, and even cameras.
  • The principle behind this technique is called backscattering. The device reflects an incoming signal and modifies it to communicate, while at the same time absorbing some energy from the incoming signal to power its internal circuits.

3) Organizational stakeholders

  • Tech companies developing IoT devices
  • Public organizations that make intense use of IoT devices for their operations
  • Private companies that make intense use of IoT devices for their bussiness

4) Implementation steps

  1. Partner with big tech companies in the field making small sensors and cameras to start developing a prototype
  2. Iteratively improve the prototype, testing it out in real situations in order to create a reliable product
  3. Talk with a public institution or business that relies on IoT devices for its main operation to try the technology at scale


5) Comment: Bladeless Wind Turbines of the Future

“One of the problems with this new technology is that it has a conversion efficiency of 70%, while conventional wind turbines are already near 90% efficiency. According to Vortex, the significant reductions in manufacturing and maintenance costs will outweigh the efficiency losses.”


2 thoughts on “IoT powered by wireless signals

  1. This is a great technology that once commercialized, the application could be limitless! Not only it will conserve energy, it also provides convenience – imagine you will never have to change the batteries for smoke alarms and security cameras. According to the article, “The researchers believe that tiny passive Wi-Fi devices could be extremely cheap to make, perhaps less than a dollar”. One version of the passive Wi-Fi technology is already being commercialized through a spin-off company called Jeeva Wireless.


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