Power Over WiFi is Changing the Way Devices are Charged
“A Camera Powered by Wi-Fi” has made Popular Science‘s “Best of What’s New 2015” awards, alongside other game-changing technologies including genetically modified rice and super-skyscrapers. Power Over Wi-Fi (PoWiFi), developed by engineers at the University of Washington, uses a Wi-Fi router to power devices.
While their final paper will be presented at the Association for Computing Machinery’s CoNEXT conference in December, this technology has been documented throughout 2015, starting when the team published a paper online describing how they harvested the energy from Wi-Fi signals to power a temperature sensor, grayscale camera, and Jawbone activity tracking bracelet charger.
“For the first time we’ve shown that you can use Wi-Fi devices to power the sensors in cameras and other devices,” Vamsi Talla, a UW electrical engineering doctoral student and the lead author on the paper, said. “We also made a syste that can co-exist as a Wi-Fi router and a power source – it doesn’t degrade the quality of your Wi-Fi signals while it’s powering devices.”
The team of computer science and electrical engineers optimized a standard Wi-Fi router to broadcast even when a channel is not being used. They also developed sensors that can be integrated in devices to harvest power. In their proof-of-concept experiments, the team powered a grayscale, low-power Omnivision VGA camera from 17 feet away, which allowed it to store enough energy to capture an image every 35 minutes. According to an article on Lab Manager’s website the reserachers also tested the system in 6 homes. Users reported no deterioration in web page loading or video streaming, which shows “the technology could successfully deliver power via Wi-Fi in real-world conditions without degrading network performance.”