New Wi-Fi chip for the IoT devices consumes 5,000 times less energy


It's not such a difficult task to replace the batteries in a security camera once a month or to remember to charge a smart speaker, but if there are several hundred such devices, the maintenance and the energy needed increases. But the Internet of Things (IoT) systems will not need separate power sources, regular charging or huge batteries, thanks to the new invention.

The University of California San Diego electrical engineers have developed a new ultra-low-power Wi-Fi radio that is built into a small chip for the Internet of Things Devices. The system boasts a remarkable energy efficiency with sizes no larger than rice grains. It only consumes 28 microwatts of electricity, 5,000 times that times lower than standard Wi-Fi radios. At the same time, this chip can transmit data as far as 21 meters at a rate of 2 Mbps, which is enough for decent quality video. The innovation is based upon a backscattering technique. The transmitter does not produce its own signal, but takes the incoming signals from nearby devices (such as a smartphone) or Wi-Fi access point, modifies the signals and encodes its own data to them, and then mirrors the new signals to another device or access point onto a separate Wi-Fi channel. This approach requires much less resources, and gives much more versatility to electronics manufacturers.

The IoT devices will no longer need to charge regularly with the tiny Wi-Fi chip or need large batteries, but can also allow smart home devices to operate fully wirelessly and in some cases even without batteries. Developers note that the new transmitter would significantly increase single-charge operating time for various Wi-Fi battery sensors and IoT products, including portable video cameras, smart voice speakers and smoke detectors, for example. In some cases, reducing energy consumption would allow sensor manufacturers to make their devices even more compact by transitioning to using less voluminous batteries.

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