Everything needs to be online nowadays, from vending machines to smart speakers, but that connectivity costs in terms of bulk and energy use. Now researchers have come up with a chip that gets devices connected with 5,000 times less power draw than normal.
For manufacturers developing small, low-powered Internet of Things devices, that’s a significant step forward. It means that hardware can be made smaller, and use less energy, while still pinging the web for updates and information.
The chip itself is smaller than a grain of rice and consumes just 28 microwatts of power, a tiny fraction of a standard Wi-Fi radio. It can transmit data at a rate of 2 megabits a second (enough for decent quality video) at a range of up to 21 meters (69 ft).
This feat of engineering is achieved through a technique called backscattering, which encodes new data on to incoming Wi-Fi signals before transmitting them on somewhere else. This sort of piggybacking uses up far less energy, and that means a lot more flexibility for device makers.