Imagine a camera that has no wires. It doesn't have a battery either, and yet it's still able to take pictures or even send a live feed back to a smartphone or computer nearby.
Where is it getting its power from? WiFi.
Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle have come up with an ingenious way to power technology using nothing but the WiFi signals that invisibly blanket our world.
Called Power-over-WiFi or PoWiFi the technology is being developed by PhD student Vamsi Talla and could potentially be the missing link to powering small sensors, cameras and robots.
The camera was modified so that it could receive any WiFi signal and then transform it into power, store it and then use it to take pictures.
What the team discovered was seriously impressive. Current routers present something of a problem - they don't broadcast a constant signal.
By using a modified router that fills these gaps with 'white noise' the camera was able to received a constant stream of small but usable energy.
The results were far better than hoped: the camera was able to operate to a distance of around 6 metres from the WiFi source while adding a rechargeable battery allowed them to extend the operating range to around 9 metres.
While it's very early days for the consumer applications of this technology in its current form PoWiFi has serious implications for the future of surveillance equipment.
Law enforcement agencies could in theory place a tiny camera without a power source at a location of their choosing and then use it indefinitely.
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