Scientists at the University of Washington (UW) have announced the successful trial of generating Wi-Fi transmissions using power 10,000 times less than conventional methods.
Despite the many advantages of Wi-Fi – such as connectivity without the use of cell service – there remains a key disadvantage – Wi-Fi consumes a significant amount of energy, eating away the power from batteries on all connected devices. Yet this breakthrough could potentially open the door for more energy-efficient network communications, which could be particularly important for the Internet of Things.
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the University of Washington and Qualcomm and has been named one of the 10 breakthrough technologies of 2016 by MIT Technology Review. The new Passive Wi-Fi system also consumes 1,000 times less power than existing energy-efficient wireless communication platforms, such as Bluetooth Low Energy and Zigbee.
In order to ensure low-power Wi-Fi transmissions, the team decoupled the digital and analog operations involved in radio transmissions. Over the past two decades, the digital side has witnessed an increase in energy efficiency while analog components still use of a lot of power. The Passive Wi-Fi architecture assigns the analog, power-intensive functions to a single device in the network that is plugged into the wall. A range of sensors produces Wi-Fi packets of information using very little power by simply reflecting and absorbing that signal using a digital switch.
The team was able to establish communication between the passive Wi-Fi sensors and a smartphone even at distances of 100 feet.
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their IoT use-cases? Attend the IoT Tech Expo World Series events with upcoming shows in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.