Taking charge: how to make a smart device without batteries

Taking charge: how to make a smart device without batteries

Researchers have found out how to remove the need for charging and make a smart device without batteries by hacking radio frequency identification tags.

The researchers at the Waterloo’s Cheriton School of Computer Science have established how a smart device without batteries can be easily produced and how this could make charger-free internet of things (IoT) devices a reality.

How to make a smart device without batteries

Professor Omid Abari, Postdoctoral Fellow Ju Wang, and Professor Srinivasan Keshav have found a way to hack radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. RFID tags have a tiny chip and are found in various devices to provide identification and location.

The hack by the researchers means that the tag has the ability to sense its environment. Wang said: “It’s really easy to do. First, you remove the plastic cover from the RFID tag, then cut out a small section of the tag’s antenna with scissors, then attach a sensor across the cut bits of the antenna to complete the circuit.”

Then the researchers hacked an RFID tag with a phototransistor, a sensor that responds to different levels of light. This changed the characteristics of the RFID’s antenna, changing the signal going to the reader. Then they created an algorithm to monitor change in the tag’s signal. Adding a switch to the RFID tag means it can act as a keypad to respond to touch.

The basis for smarter IoT devices

“We see this as a good example of a complete software-hardware system for IoT devices,” Abari added. “We hacked simple hardware – we cut RFID tags and placed a sensor on them. Then we designed new algorithms and combined the software and hardware to enable new applications and capabilities.

The smart device without batteries is an important step for future technology for more sophisticated battery-free smart IoT devices which do not need to be charged.

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