Wiliot: The Power’s In The Air

Low power chips have come a long way in recent years. They are increasingly more capable and use less power. But at the end of the day, they still need a power source. Even something as power sipping as LoRaWAN devices, which can last up to 10-years on an embedded battery, are not exempt.

So I was intrigued by this article about the startup Wiliot. They want to create chips that are powered by the nanowatts of power in ambient radio frequencies. Using all those Wi-Fi SSIDs in your phone settings into a power source is brilliant, but also seems impossible?

Well, they’ve convinced Amazon, Samsung, and other key investors to giving them $30 million to try and manufacture them. Their demo chips right now are limited but already show the promise of the technology. They can measure temperature, location, air pressure, and can transmit data back to the cloud.

Wiliot is saying they can see use for these chips in a lot of industries. They specifically were interested in garments, both from a supply chain and consumer side. But I think the enterprise would have a lot of uses for these as well. I immediately thought of what something like Paessler Router Traffic Grapher is able to do with a lot of disparate sensor data points. Now take out the need for connected power, and suddenly these sensors can be where they are needed, not just where they can be powered.

I’m sure there are no shortage of technical hurdles for Wiliot to manufacture these chips at scale, especially given that RFID tags are pretty dirt cheap and well established. But it does offer some interesting possibilities.

About the author

Rich Stroffolino

Rich has been a tech enthusiast since he first used the speech simulator on a Magnavox Odyssey². Current areas of interest include ZFS, the false hopes of memristors, and the oral history of Transmeta.

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