Dutch scientists have developed a tiny sensor powered by the radio waves it uses to communicate information.
Following this exciting development, researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology said that such sensors could help advance the nascent Internet of Things industry.
There is an increasing trend of employing tiny chips that measure temperature, light and air pollution. They are being deployed around cities and in smart homes and offices.
One of the biggest hurdles is to make these sensors battery-free.
Lead researcher Prof. Peter Baltus said, “We don’t want hundreds of these sensors around our homes if we have to go around swapping the batteries all the time”.
The sensor developed by his team measures temperature but similar sensors that measure light, movement and humidity could also be developed, he told the BBC.
The sensor measures just 2 sq mm and weighs 1.6 mg.
The sensor contains an antenna that captures energy from a wireless router. It stores the energy and, once there is enough, is able to measure the temperature and send a signal to the router.
Currently the chip has a tiny range – just 2.5 cm but the researchers are confident that this can be extended to 1 m.
“Theoretically it can work up to 5 m,” said Prof Baltus.
The sensor can operate beneath a layer of paint, plastic or concrete – making it ideal for incorporation into buildings.
It is also cheap and, according to Prof Baltus, the cost of an individual chip would be around 20 cents.
According to Gartner, the Internet of Things market is set to explode. It predicts that cities will have 1.6 billion connected things, smart buildings, 518 million and homes, one billion, in 2016.