Michio Hasai Michio Hasai is a social strategist and car guy. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Researchers have developed a radio that’s the size of an ant

1 min read

This is the promise of the near future: all of your gadgets — from your smartphone to your fridge — will be able to talk to each other, wirelessly communicating whether you’re around or not. We’re almost there, but a new device from Stanford and University of California, Berkeley, professors may speed things along. Engineers from the schools have designed a radio the size of an ant. The tiny chips, which are powered by harvesting radio signals and don’t require external power, are small enough to fit on gadgets in your home, but still powerful enough to send and receive transmissions. The hope, according to the creators, is for device-makers to start using the chips in gadgets for the Internet of Things. Add one of the chips to a lightbulb, and make your stuff a little a smarter — able to communicate with you and all the electronics around you.

Engineers from Stanford and Berkeley Universities have figured out how to make radios the size of an ant, which have been created specifically to serve as controllers and sensors in the Internet of Things. The radios are fitted onto tiny silicon chips, and cost only pennies to make thanks to their diminutive size. They are designed to compute, execute, and relay demands, and they are very energy efficient to the point of being self-sufficient. This is due to the fact that they can harvest power from the incoming electromagnetic signal so they do not require batteries, meaning there is no particular lifetime associated with the devices. “We’ve rethought designing radio technology from the ground up,” said Amin Arbabian from Stanford, who worked on the project. “The advantage of moving to this architecture is that we can have the scalability we want.” This means that they can scale the technology to potentially thousands of devices within a very dense area. In the past the main focus of the research around miniaturizing radios has focused very much on the components. But by transferring the emphasis to the miniaturization of the chip, the Stanford engineers were also able to reduce its power consumption and price. The radio’s antenna is one-tenth of the size of a Wi-Fi antenna but operates at a very fast bitrate.

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Michio Hasai Michio Hasai is a social strategist and car guy. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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