"HitchHike is the first self-sufficient WiFi system that enables data transmission using just micro-watts of energy – almost zero," Zhang said. "Better yet, it can be used as-is with existing WiFi without modification or additional equipment. You can use it right now with a cell phone and your off-the-shelf WiFi router."
HitchHike is so low-power that a small battery could drive it for a decade or more, the researchers say. It even has the potential to harvest energy from existing radio waves and use that electromagnetic energy, plucked from its surroundings, to power itself, perhaps indefinitely.
"HitchHike could lead to widespread adoption in the Internet of Things," Katti said. "Sensors could be deployed anywhere we can put a coin battery that has existing WiFi. The technology could potentially even operate without batteries. That would be a big development in this field."
The researchers say HitchHike could be available to be incorporated into wireless devices in the next three to five years.
The Hitchhike prototype is a processor and radio in one. It measures about the size of a postage stamp, but the engineers believe that they can make it smaller – perhaps even smaller than a grain of rice for use in implanted bio-devices like a wireless heart rate sensor (see video).
"HitchHike opens the doors for widespread deployment of low-power WiFi communication using widely available WiFi infrastructure and, for the first time, truly empower the Internet of Things," Zhang said.
Excerpted from Stanford Engineering News. Original article by Andrew Myers