Wi-Fi routers can wirelessly power our devices

There is a way to power your devices using your Wi-Fi router, but you don't have to sacrifice your wireless network to do so.

A PhD student named Vamsi Talla and his team of researchers in Sensor Systems Lab at University of Washington have come up with a solution, which they have described in a paper called “Powering the Next Billion Devices with Wi-Fi”.

This new technology which they call PoWiFi, could be very important, Talla says:

"There is increasing interest in the Internet-of-Things where small computing sensors and mobile devices are embedded in everyday objects and environments. A key issue is how to power these devices as they become smaller and more numerous; plugging them in to provide power is inconvenient and is difficult at large scale."

Wi-Fi routers were transmitting energy signals similar to those we use to power our devices, Talla realised, but the problem with these routers was that their signal was intermittent and broadcast in bursts.

The solution was relatively simple, with the researchers modifying normal routers to broadcast noise when a channel was not being used to send data.

This allowed them to power devices such as a camera that was 17 feet away, or a temperature sensor, located some 20 feet away.

What makes this technology brilliant is the fact that we don’t need new hardware – all we need to do is update the firmware on our existing routers to have them charge basically anything in the house.

Looking at how his invention could be utilised in the future, Talla suggests we could see public Wi-Fi hotspots converted into Wi-Fi + Charging hotspots, to charge wearables like fitness trackers from Fitbit and Jawbone - though this would require new hardware from those manufacturers.