Batteries could soon become a thing of the past thanks to a new technology that not only uses TV and Wi-Fi signals for device communication, but taps those same signals as a power source.
Developed by researchers from the University of Washington, the technology is known as “ambient backscatter” and could potentially create networks of devices and sensors that can transmit information by reflecting existing signals to exchange information, without the need for internal batteries.
Lead researcher Shyam Gollakota said in a press release:
It’s hopefully going to have applications in a number of areas including wearable computing, smart homes and self-sustaining sensor networks.
Researchers built small, credit card-sized devices equipped with antennas that detect, harness and reflect those signals to similar devices. Various places the device was tested around Seattle, included a street corner, inside an apartment building and on top of a parking garage – ranging from less than half a mile away from a TV tower to about 6.5. miles away.
The receiving devices picked up a signal at a rate of 1 kilobit per second when 2.5 feet away from their outdoor counterparts and 1.5 feet apart when inside. That’s enough to transmit a text message, sensor reading and contact information.
One potential to provide emergency power to cell phones when the battery has died. There are countless other ways it could be applied, such as letting you know that you forgot your keys, but researchers want to advance the capacity and range of the devices before creating too much expectation.