Someday it may become true when our cell phones, tablets, and other smart devices do not need charging—thanks to research performed at the University of Waterloo where scientists are seeking ways to create smart devices that do not use batteries.
The potential battery-free objects will feature an IP address for internet connectivity, referred to as Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
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Many IoT devices include sensors that detect their environment, such as room's ambient temperature. However, a challenge that remains in the creation of these devices is keeping it sustainable and battery-free—this is when researchers found a way to hack radio frequency identification (RFID) tags using a phototransistor that responds to different variations of light giving devices the ability to sense the environment. "It's really easy to do," explains Postdoctoral Fellow, Ju Wang from Waterloo's Cheriton School of Computer Science. "First, you remove the plastic cover from the RFID tag, then cut out a small section of the tag's antenna with scissors, then attach a sensor across the cut bits of the antenna to complete the circuit."
RFID tags only provide identification and location-- removing the tag's antenna and adding a sensing device across it -- gives the tag the ability to sense the environment.
"We see this as a good example of a complete software-hardware system for IoT devices," says Professor Omid Abari, also from Waterloo's Cheriton School of Computer Science Abari said. "We hacked simple hardware -- we cut RFID tags and placed a sensor on them. Then we designed new algorithms and combined the software and hardware to enable new applications and capabilities.
An RFID tag is modified by cutting out a small part its antenna (silver ribbon) and placing a small light-sensing phototransistor or temperature-responsive resistor (thermistor) on it.
Credit: University of Waterloo
Findings of the study titled ‘Challenge: RFID Hacking for Fun and Profit-ACM MobiCom’ were recently presented in the Proceedings of the 24th Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking. "Our main contribution is showing how simple it is to hack an RFID tag to create an IoT device. It's so easy a novice could do it."
Source: Science Daily