PoWiFi, coming soon to an office near you

The ability to deliver power wirelessly to a wide range of autonomous devices and sensors will be hugely significant. Now that is the definition of an understatement.

One thing for sure, is that Ned Ludd, supposed leader of the 19th-century English textile worker movement – the Luddites – that protested against newly developed labour-economizing technologies, will be turning in his grave. However, on the flip side, the likes of Edison, Volta and Franklin will be looking down in wonderment as to how things in the world of electricity are rapidly progressing.

We all know that Wi-Fi (or WiFi) allows us to connect to the internet by transmitting data through the air itself (like magic), but did you know that in 1999 the ‘Wi-Fi Alliance’ formed as a trade association to hold the WiFi trademark under which most products are sold. The name WiFi was created by a brand agency, and it is not an abbreviation of Wireless Fidelity. Fascinating? Yes, but I am digressing.

Now close your eyes and imagine if the magical WiFi could be used to power our devices as well? Well, some clever scientists at the University of Washington are currently working to make it happen. Good on ‘em.

PoWiFi, short for … ready for it … ‘Power over Wi-Fi’. Wow. Supposedly it tricks routers into sending out a constant signal that is (magically) captured and converted into DC (or Direct Current, for those non-scientists) power by a harvester.

Okay, so we have all heard about Power over Ethernet (or PoE), which describes any of several standardized or ad-hoc systems that pass electrical power along with data on Ethernet cabling. The problem here is the word cable. However, and I did not know this, our friend WiFi already transmits a small amount of power to carry data, up to 1 watt. This is where is gets interesting.

We already have huge WiFi infrastructure in place, and our friends the scientists are working out how they can repurpose this existing infrastructure for power delivery as well, then we can actually enable wireless power delivery in homes and offices. Oooh. Aaah.

The BBC recently reported (full article here) that WiFi signals have been used to beam power to a surveillance camera. The battery-free camera was modified so it could scavenge power from ambient WiFi signals, store it and then use it to take photos. The team behind the project believes its techniques will be useful for powering the many devices expected to form the “internet of things“, bringing it all to life…

The University of Washington team essentially realised that the energy contained in ambient WiFi signals that are now ubiquitous often came close to the operating voltages required by a variety of low power devices. [technical stuff coming up] Unfortunately, because WiFi signals are broadcast in bursts across different frequencies the required amount of energy was only available too intermittently to be useful. To fix this, the research team modified standard WiFi hotspots and routers to broadcast noise when a channel was not being used to send data. This meant the power of the WiFi signals stayed constant and, though low, was high enough to power some components.

PoWiFi could be the enabling technology that finally brings the internet of things to life. This all bodes well for computers eventually taking over, but that’s a while away. In the meantime, lets look forward to a cableless environment coming our way.

Obviously, there is still plenty of development to go before we completely disband with cables, but the day will come. I can hear the interior designers rejoicing! No more cables, no more power poles, no more fixed furniture, need for light blocking walls, no more coordinating with electrical engineers. Hurrah!

Thanks for reading,


(I have referenced a  bit from the following great article, click here)

Kai Schindlmayr / First and foremost, I want to help you. If you think I can generate an opportunity for you, introduce you to my network or promote you or your business via LinkedIn – please message me. It is what I enjoy most.

I work for CalderMacmorran, and every workday I get to realise my passion, I set out to help create great workspaces that align with a corporate’s culture, business strategies and property requirements.

I also enjoy presenting and discussing about personal branding and the influence LinkedIn has as a professional platform.

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