Photography From the Future: Cameras That power off Wifi

Jun 7, 2015

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

Photography From the Future: Cameras That power off Wifi

Jun 7, 2015

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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We always talk about powering cameras (and gear in general) as a big thing. I got to fly an Inspire 1 for an upcoming tutorial and was shocked at how much of our production hustle had to do with managing batteries. I am quite confident that battery and power management will be the next step in camera evolution.

Some companies are making bigger batteries (or adapters for bigger batteries), some companies solve the issue by making almost instantly-charging batteries, but this solution tops them all as it creates real of-the-air charging just by transiting a specific WiFi signal.

The system is called power over wifi and it literally creates a battery-free camera. At least in the sense that we perceive battery.

The system was developed by PhD student Vamsi Talla and colleagues at the Sensor Systems Lab at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The team realized that the power a wifi signal is enough to power a small device. The caveat is that wifi signals are done in bursts, so the small amount of time where a specific frequency is active is not enough. To solve this, the team modified wifi routers to emit “noise” on non-active channels.

The power gathered by this noise was enough to trigger a camera every 35 minutes. Kinda like a really slow time lapse.

While this sounds beneficial for some applications, I would hate to think that more radio signals and more powerful ones are overloading the air, and I am pretty confident that many will not want that system in their homes.

The full details can be found in a paper called Powering the Next Billion Devices with Wi-Fi [pdf] by Mr Talla and colleagues.

[Powering the Next Billion Devices with Wi-Fi via bbc]

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Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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7 responses to “Photography From the Future: Cameras That power off Wifi”

  1. Stephen Fink Avatar
    Stephen Fink

    So instead of wifi why not use a standard fm station? Tune in your fav local channel and power off that signal. It already exists and all those commercials are paying for the power already. :)

    1. Marco Tedaldi Avatar
      Marco Tedaldi

      They used a specially modified WiFi-Router really close bow to power a really REALLY low power device. So they might have gotten a few nW (10^-9, 0.000000001) of Power (from at least 100mW they blasted out of the Antenna of the Router). Since the power of the signal is reduced by the square of the distance (10x distance means 1/100th of power) you can see that this will lead to really small quantities of energy.
      So nope, like all that “Free Energy Stuff” this will only work in a few select cases.

      It might be enough to power a watch or a calculator or maybe a temperature sensor that only has to transmit values every now and than. But you’re neither powering your camera nor your cellphone with that!

  2. J.W. Avatar
    J.W.

    Battery and power management is an issue not only for cameras. If you look at the cars, there it is a key component. And from there, I think we can be a great freeloader.
    On the other hand – if you as a photographer think about this topic, then there you can do also a lot. First thing should do is to get rid of your mirrorless camera (which was also meant as one of the next big things in photography…! Shit…): With my “classical” DSLR I can use a battery pack almost 100 times longer than any of these fancy mirrorless freaks.
    Problem solved.
    Today!
    Not by promises for the next 100 years!

  3. Shachar Weis Avatar
    Shachar Weis

    Impossible. You would generate more power from a solar panel and a candle.

  4. Adamalthus Avatar
    Adamalthus

    Never happening. The research quoted is related to powering very very very low power sensor devices, not a full function consumer device like a camera. There’s now way to draw the power necessary for that application from a wifi signal…

  5. Shachar Weis Avatar
    Shachar Weis

    Just to elaborate,they powered a VGA sensor coupled with a ultra-low leakage capacitor enough to take a 176×144 frame every 35 minutes on a distance of 17 feet with and using of a very high powered Wi-Fi transmitter.

  6. Eric Dye Avatar
    Eric Dye

    That’s wasting a hell of a lot of energy. The efficiency they reported is horrible.

    I don’t think this will ever be a thing, there are easier and more efficient ways. You could stick some solar panels on top of your camera and it would do better.

    Heck that’s what some calculators already do.