A Step Closer toward Batteryless Smart IoT Devices

By CIOReview | Tuesday, March 19, 2019

In today’s generation, the viability of battery energy storage systems is not up to the expectation scales, and recurring problems such as reliability, energy storage capacity are still a major concern for future researchers. Be it the laptops or smartphones, but customers expect devices to always be powered, and often not run out of power. In order to achieve this, numerous scientists are working on different methods and the possibility of additional materials to enhance the functionality of batteries. And now, researchers from Waterloo University have taken a step further to implement smart devices that do not require either battery or charging.

These battery-free devices are IoT devices—provided with a unique IP address to achieve inter-connectivity amongst users. The absence of a battery in these devices cut-down maintenance cost and the devices can be placed off the grid. Numerous IoT devices comprise of inbuilt sensors to monitor external environmental factors such as ambient temperature, sound, and motion, but the most significant challenge associated with these devices are concerning sustainability and battery-free with integrated connections.

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Omid Abari, a Postdoctoral fellow at Waterloo Cheriton School of Computer Science, has proposed a unique approach to hack radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, which is seen to be in the form of ubiquitous squiggly ribbons of material with the capability of sensing the environment. In the development of batteryless IoT circuit with RFID material, the plastic sheath from the RFID circuit is removed at the initial stage. Then, the circuit is divided into small fragments where antenna and sensing devices are placed across it. It is further covered with an external sheath to complete the module, which gives the capability to sense its external environment. A phototransistor material is used to hack RFID tag, and gain insight about different levels of light.

The characteristics of the photosensitive device are altered by frequently exposing phototransistor to sunlight, which in turn alters the electrical signal provided to a research analyst or reader. Developing an efficient algorithm from reader understandability point of view to monitor the changes in the tag’s signal helps in achieving accurate readings with variable light limits.

The challenges that exist in real time application of hacked RFID device are still unknown due to its lack of applicability. Further research should be carried out to analyze and unleash its potential concerning security aspects.

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