A Stanford engineering team has built a radio the size of an ant, a device so energy efficient that it gathers all the power it needs from the same electromagnetic waves that carry signals to its receiving antenna – no batteries required.
Designed to compute, execute and relay commands, this tiny wireless chip costs pennies to fabricate – making it cheap enough to become the missing link between the Internet as we know it and the linked-together smart gadgets envisioned in the “Internet of Things.”
“The next exponential growth in connectivity will be connecting objects together and giving us remote control through the web,” said Amin Arbabian, an assistant professor of electrical engineering who recently demonstrated this ant-sized radio chip at the VLSI Technology and Circuits Symposium in Hawaii.
Much of the infrastructure needed to enable us to control sensors and devices remotely already exists: We have the Internet to carry commands around the globe, and computers and smartphones to issue the commands. What’s missing is a wireless controller cheap enough to so that it can be installed on any gadget anywhere.
“How do you put a bi-directional wireless control system on every lightbulb?” Arbabian said. “By putting all the essential elements of a radio on a single chip that costs pennies to make.”
Cost is critical because, as Arbabian observed, “We’re ultimately talking about connecting trillions of devices.”