Dismounted soldiers and Marines often carry upwards of 100 pounds of gear, much of it power-hungry radios and night-vision goggles and sensors (like these tiny drones). Each requires batteries and extra batteries — and that makes the prospect of delivering electricity over a Wi-Fi signal very attractive indeed.
Last week, researchers from the University of Washington unveiled a paper, “Powering the Next Billion Devices With Wi-Fi,” that describes how to power a small camera with a Wi-Fi signal. In essence, the camera’s 2.4-GHz antenna becomes an energy harvester that transforms radio frequency signals into DC power. Unlike some other ambient power schemes, this one doesn’t interfere with the functioning of the router. (WIRED took note, declaring “Wi-Fi to power your gadgets is closer than you think,” and then walked back expectations with “Wi-FI charging is real, but probably won’t charge your iPhone.”)
But is this breakthrough relevant for the men and women who lug hot and heavy batteries across mountaintops in places like Afghanistan?