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An IoT sensor that powers itself from router radio waves

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December 9, 2015

Researchers in the Netherlands have designed a new IoT (internet-of-things) sensor that simply powers itself from router radio waves.

The first sample chip measures just two millimeters square, weighs about 1.6 milligrams and even measures temperature.

It draws very little power from a Wi-Fi router via a miniature antenna, takes a reading and then broadcasts it back, using a slightly different frequency to give the temperature data.

Peter Baltus, Eindhoven University of Technology professor of wireless technology, points out that because batteries aren't required and that the size of the device is so small, it could be mixed in with paint or building materials, something that should make the IoT designer community happy.

And producing these units should be low in overall cost, they say. The IoT chip is built around long-established 65 nm process technology, and Professor Baltus estimates that in mass production, the cost per chip could fall as low as 20 cents a piece.

But there remains one huge problem to solve though-- overall range. The prototype sensor has to be within about an inch of the router to get enough power to operate.

Baltus said the range should be extendable to about three feet by the end of the year and has put a theoretical limit of about 15 to 16 feet with the current design.

And if that distance becomes feasible, then it's possible that a series of routers and repeaters could be used to power a building-wide temperature map.

The new IoT prototype chip was the brainchild of researcher Hao Gao, who received his PhD from the university for his thesis Fully Integrated Ultra-Low Power mm-Wave Wireless Sensor Design Methods.

Source: The Eindhoven University of Technology.

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