Who Needs Batteries? These Sensors Run On Cellular Signals

Scientists are one step closer to making smart sensors that can embed in our clothing, cars, and buildings.

Batteries: Who needs 'em? Using a technology called ambient backscattering, researchers at the University of Washington have created self-powering sensors that don't need to be charged up or attached to a battery. Instead, the experimental sensors actually power themselves off of cellular phone transmissions.

"We can repurpose wireless signals that are already around us into both a source of power and a communication medium," University of Washington professor Shyam Gollakota said in a statement. "It’s hopefully going to have applications in a number of areas including wearable computing, smart homes, and self-sustaining sensor networks."

While the technology works and is currently legal under FCC guidelines, there is a catch. As readers on Hacker News are discussing, the experimental technique is likely to anger mobile carriers and television broadcasters concerned about unauthorized use of their signals (and, of course, the liability concerns that result from that). So get cracking, future tech lawyers: We need a couple of case studies for these.

[Image: University of Washington]

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  • Peter Hendry

    They are not using the "Signal" but simply harvesting the, otherwise, wasted energy so no game.
    Don't waste your share holder's money beating someone into the ground on this one.
    Share holder?
    That's probably ............you!
    Do you have savings or a pension?
    That's where all the money comes from and goes to (ish).
    You give them the money and they promise you a comfortable old age.
    In order to do this they group all your money together and invest it.
    Then they send young impressionable " Fund Managers" to conferences in Las Vegas in the pure righteous belief that they won't get sidetracked and accidently invest your savings in some subprime mortgages or polluting industries, maybe even the company that clamped your car the other week.
    Catch 22?