PoWiFi is a system that allows simultaneous wireless transfer of power and data to electronic devices using existing WiFi infrastructure, giving a glimpse of hope that batteries might soon be made redundant.
Different technologies that allow wireless charging have been circulating the news for quite some time now, with gadgets and mats providing that ever-so-needed power without the need of using a cable and physically plugging the electronic device. However, the most that these mats do is to spare you the need to carry a charger, and to feel like a criminal every time you secretly plug your device in the socket next to your coffee table.
Now, of course this should not sound like criticism, on the contrary, it is great to see that places like Starbucks for example, are all up for new slightly geeky and super cool techs that ultimately attract more customers. But with these techs in place, they do not allow you to walk around, in fact, you will still have to go to the place, where the wireless powering technology is available, and spend some time there before you can get going again. Similarly, wireless charging technology is becoming increasingly available for EV battrey charging, as it was demonstrated by Busbaar V3 charging station for buses, but again the vehicle has to be at the right spot, even if it does not require plug in.
Nikola Tesla was the first to start dreaming of getting rid of wires, and unfortunately he could not live long enough to see his dreams realized. However, such a brilliant idea is not something that has to be disregarded as science fiction and just left untouched. Many research teams have been searching for ways to make this happen. The wireless charging spots are just the beginning, but the ultimate goal is to be able to charge devices everywhere, at any point, or why not even get rid of batteries all together?
A team of researchers from University of Washington decided to build on this idea and conducted an experiment during which they were able to power devices wirelessly, using only available infrastructure. The technology that they used is called PoWiFi, and it uses house routers to send RF signals, which are then received by the antenna of the electronic device. A rectifier converts the signal into DC power, while a converter boosts the voltage.
Vamsi Talla, a PhD candidate and lead researcher on the project, together with his team, installed the system in six test homes, where the residents were advised to keep using their wireless networks as always. Only one of the users reported problems with internet connection after the installation of PoWiFi, but all in all, the system allowed wireless transmission of both power and data simultaneously using RF signal.
This is the first time anyone has managed to get that far. Previous technologies of this kind by researchers at MIT and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology were able to transmit power at a distance of 2 and 5 meters. These, however, were not able to multitask like PoWiFi, and most definitely did not imply that we might not need batteries in the near future.
Image (c) Washington University