A team of researchers at the University of Washington has come up with a working prototype of a cellphone that doesn’t require a battery to make calls or send text messages – instead, it harvests energy from thin air, more specifically, radio signals. Right now, all it features is an LED light and buttons on a circuit board, however, a more advanced prototype with an E Ink display and better call quality is in the works.
The projected was spearheaded by UW research associate Vamsi Talla, working at the lab of UW CSE associate professor Joshua Smith. Talla has been working on several wireless connectivity projects that have made headlines in the recent past, including the breakthrough Passive Wi-Fi system unveiled last year. The Passive Wi-Fi system, being commercialised by Smith’s startup Jeeva Wireless, uses 10,000 times less power than traditional Wi-Fi systems by utilising backscatter communication technology. Backscatter tech uses reflections of signals (whether existing or new) to communicate, allowing a network of passive and active devices where the signals themselves are a source of power and the medium of communication.
Talla’s also worked on a way to power electronics, including cameras, using Wi-Fi signals. Other work includes a way for power-constrained devices like medical implants to communicate with smart devices by converting Bluetooth signals into Wi-Fi. This use of backscatter communication between more than one type of technology is being called ‘Interscatter’ by the UW team, short for ‘inter-technology backscatter’.
The UW researchers’ work on battery less smartphones further…