... to make a shopping list.
This means it will be becessary to embed chips in your sofa, your wallet and your refrigerator to enable them to communicate with the rest of the world. And those chips will need power to run their communications.
In some cases this power will come from the electricity grid or a battery, although this is not always convenient. However scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle believe they have at least part of an answer to the problem: to reconfigure a chip’s communications so that they need almost no power to work.
Most conceptions of the internet of things assume that the chips in sofas, wallets, fridges and so on will use technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to communicate with each other - either directly over short ranges or via a base-station connected to the outside world for long range connectivity.
However, for a conventional chip to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal requires two things. First, it must generate a narrow-band carrier wave. Secondly it must impress upon this wave a digital signal that a receiver can interpret.
Following Moore’s Law (that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years) the components responsible for doing the impressing have become ever more efficient over the past couple of decades. However, those generating the carrier wave have not done so.
Not having to generate its own carrier wave reduces a chip’s power consumption ten-thousandfold, because throwing the switch requires only a minuscule amount of current. Moreover, though trial prototypes do still use batteries, this current could instead be extracted from the part of the carrier wave that is absorbed.
Read the original unabridged Economist.com article.