Researchers Beam Power To Camera Through Wi-Fi


Researchers have developed a camera that can be powered by Wi-Fi, eliminating the need for a battery or alternate power source entirely.

The camera is able to use Wi-Fi to gain power, store that energy, and then use it to take photos. While it is still in its infancy, the researchers suggest that the technology could be extremely helpful as connected devices that are part of the Internet of Things become increasingly popular.

"Great things are expected of the Internet of Things but only if engineers can solve one potential showstopper of a question: how to power these numerous tiny machines," said a report about the research. "Today, we get an answer thanks to the work of Vamsi Talla and pals at the University of Washington in Seattle. These guys have developed a way to broadcast power to remote devices using an existing technology that many people already have in their living rooms: ordinary Wi-Fi. They call their new approach power over Wi-Fi or PoWi-Fi."

Researchers first conducted the experiments when they realized that the energy contained in ambient Wi-Fi signals came close to the power needed by many of today's low-power devices. Unfortunately, they soon figured out that because Wi-Fi signals are delivered in bursts across multiple frequencies, power was delivered too sparingly to be useful.

As a way to fix this problem, researchers modified routers to emit noise when a broadcast channel wasn't being used. This essentially meant that the signal would remain constant, delivering enough energy to power many low-power devices. The adding of this noise to signals - what they call PoWi-Fi, or power over Wi-Fi - did very little to change the data-transfer rates across Wi-Fi hotspots. 

The camera itself was able to get enough power from the system to take a photo every 35 minutes. While this doesn't sound like much, if researchers are able to refine the technology, it has huge potential, especially with the rise of the Internet of Things. Without this kind of energy source, there would need to be power outlets all over the house to accommodate as many connected devices as are expected from the Internet of Things market. Either that, or the battery industry would become very profitable going forward.

Only time will tell how much of an impact this technology could have on our daily lives. While we would all have to change our Internet routers to take advantage of it, this technology may very well be common practice in a few short years.

Photo: Manuel Iglesias | Flickr

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