Ant-sized Radios May Connect Everything To Everything
New millimeter sized radios using pennies-worth of silicon and requiring no batteries could usher in a new interconnected era in which everything can communicate with everything else.
Are you ready for a radio small enough for your pet ant to carry? It may seem like just a crazy-small electronic device and nothing more but the implications could be like us looking back to the pre-internet era and wondering how the hell we got anything done.
It started with Amin Arababian while working on his PhD program with the Wireless Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. It took 3 years but he and his engineering team sought to and succeeded in drastically miniaturizing and re-thinking radio technology from the ground up. The benefits of something that seems so simple are quite impressive and they just get better the more you think about them.
First off, smaller is better (for most things) to such a degree that’s it’s essentially an indelible maxim of our culture. In the case of radios it means that millimeter-scale radios cost mere pennies to produce. Power costs also drop precipitously at this scale. So much so that it may surprise you that batteries are not even required! In fact, if you felt compelled to add a conventional AAA battery, it would run the device for a century. Power requirements then are so meager that the device gets plenty by harvesting what it needs from the incoming signal.
So what can we do with this that is so revolutionary. Three words…Internet of Things.
This refers to the anticipated next phase of the internet in which inter-connectivity explodes through the roof. It may seem like we’re fairly inter-connected right now. As 2015 approaches, 75% of the worlds population is now near an accessible portal to the internet. Add to that the near 6 billion devices that are also connected to it and its little wonder how much the internet has changed our lives. This is nothing however compared the Internet of Things.
Imagine every important object that’s part of our lives having an address on the internet that we can use to interact with them and control them. Information will flow both ways of course. These devices will have access to the 5 million+ terabytes of information available on the interwebs to help them do what they do to the best of their abilities and with much more autonomy. This list extends from your toaster to your pace maker to your car or even your stuffed teddy bear, all able to communicate with each other and the 5 million terabytes (and growing) of information it houses. Imagine how your world opened up once the internetpedia opened its doors.
This is exactly what this ant radio can help achieve. We already have the computers to make the commands and the internet to carry those commands. All we need now is a cheap, self-powered wireless controller that can be put everywhere cheaply to complete this final leg of the tripod. The new functionalities and abilities that will arise from our devices and the new ways we’ll create to interact with them have long been just a glimmer in the internet’s eye. No longer perhaps.
Image Credit: Stanford University