Electrical engineers from the University of California, San Diego recently designed a new portable chip that consumes 5000 less power than the Wi-Fi radios that we have today.
The new chip, which is smaller in size compared with a grain of rice, is said to be ideal for IoT devices, smart home setups, and wearables. With just 28 microwatts of power, the tiny chip can allow devices to connect with existing Wi-Fi networks and transmit data at a rate of two megabits per second within a range of 21 meters.
Smart devices, mobile phones and even small cameras or various sensors to this chip, it can directly send data from these devices to a Wi-Fi access point near you. You don’t need to buy anything else and it could last for years on a single coin cell battery,” explains Dinesh Bharadia who is one of Professors of UC San Diego electrical and computer engineering department working on the chip.
The Wi-Fi radio on the chip is said to use far less power compared with the popular commercial WiFi radios, hence Wi-Fi compatible devices can last for years instead of just hours, even when unplugged. This definitely beats the popular commercial WiFi devices as they will need either large batteries or other external power sources to run for as long as the current chips as it takes 100s of milliwatts just to pair devices.
Data transmission by the device is done by taking incoming Wi-Fi signals from a nearby device, modify and encode its own data onto them, and then reflect the new signals onto a different Wi-Fi channel to another device. This process in technical terms is known as backscattering and it simply implies transmitting data by piggybacking data using signals of already connected devices. This feature allows the chip to, not only save on power, but also increases it’s range as it spreads as the WiFi signal continues to spread.