Meet Wiliot, a battery-less Bluetooth chip that pulls power from thin air

A tiny chip from semiconductor company Wiliot could harvest energy out of thin air, the company claims. No battery needed. Instead, the paper-thin device pulls power from ambient radio frequencies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cell signals, allowing it to measure things like weight and temperature, and transmit the information to nearby devices. The company recently closed a $30 million funding round with investors that included Amazon and Samsung.

Wiliot’s Bluetooth chip is the epitome of discreet. About the size of a postage stamp, it can be cheaply produced and mounted pretty much anywhere — on shirts as a high-tech clothing label or on consumer goods as a way to track conditions during transport. The company says it’s in talks with device manufacturers interested in prototyping applications.

Steve Statler, vice president of marketing and business development at Wiliot, described some of the device’s myriad potential applications. “Products will be able to have the lost and found capabilities built-in so that many more items will be tracked if they are lost or stolen without the size or limitations in battery life that have limited this in the past,” he told Digital Trends. “Items of clothing with Bluetooth in their care label will be able to talk to your washing machine to make sure they are not ruined with the wrong wash cycle or turn pink by being mixed with other items. With your permission, your phone will be able to track what is in your wardrobe and when it is worn, so that styling recommendations won’t just be based on what you bought but what you like.”

Retailers could benefit from the tag’s ability to track inventory in transit to and from the store, while keeping track of the store’s inventory in real time to avoid items being stolen or going out of stock.

“We will even be able to detect which products are picked up and tried on in stores so that advertising and promotion will be more effective,” Statler said.

While we shudder at the thought of advertisers having access to our shopping decisions, Wiliot does offer compelling possibilities for the Internet of Things.

After its recent funding round, Wiliot now aims to build on its tag’s commercial scalability, while implanting features like encryption and biodegradability, before a commercial rollout in 2020. The company hasn’t yet determined a price for the device.

Health & Fitness

My niece lost her hearing. This is a story about how technology brought it back

For people with profound hearing loss, cochlear implants can restore sound. We explore what the procedure entails, how the system works, and take a look at the latest developments from Australian company Cochlear.
Business

Apple loses battle to use Intel modems in Germany in latest clash with Qualcomm

Apple is following the Federal Trade Commission's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.
Photography

Tight on space? Here’s how to transfer photos from an iPhone to a computer

Never lose any of your cherished selfies or family vacation photos from your iPhone again by learning how to transfer photos from your iPhone to a computer, whether you want to use a cable or wireless transfer.
Mobile

Moto G7 vs. Nokia 7.1: The battle for budget smartphone supremacy

If you're hunting for a reasonably priced smartphone, then you should definitely be checking out the latest devices from Nokia and Motorola. We compare the Moto G7 to the Nokia 7.1 to find out how they differ and which is better.
Emerging Tech

After a record-setting 15 years, NASA ends Opportunity rover’s tour of Mars

NASA has officially called it quits on its record-setting Mars rover Opportunity, eight months after last hearing from the lander. The Rover landed on the Red Planet in early 2004.
Emerging Tech

With CabinSense, cars will soon know who’s riding in them and respond accordingly

What if your car could know who's riding in it and customize the entertainment and safety options accordingly? That’s what's promised by the new CabinSense in-car Occupancy Monitoring System.
Product Review

Yuneec’s Mantis Q will make you wish you bought a DJI drone

Yuneec’s high-end drones are arguably the ones to beat in terms of flight control, design, and their photographic capabilities. But the company has struggled to make a low-end drone that’s worth buying, and the Mantis Q is proof of that…
Emerging Tech

NASA’s ‘Refabricator’ lets astronauts recycle 3D-printed tools to make new ones

The International Space Station just received a fancy new gadget in the form of a Refabricator, a machine capable of 3D printing using recycled plastic materials. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Words are so 2018. The Peeqo robot speaks exclusively in GIFs and video clips

Move over, Amazon Echo! Peeqo is a cute robot that will answer your spoken word questions by displaying a specially selected short video or GIF. Because, you know, it’s the year 2019.
Emerging Tech

Airbus will stop making the world’s biggest passenger plane

Airbus announced this week that it will stop building the world's biggest passenger plane in 2021. The maker of the double-decker A380 said a changing market and lack of orders gave it little choice but to end production.
Emerging Tech

Exploding vape pen battery starts fire on SkyWest flight

A vape pen battery caused a fire in an overhead bin on a SkyWest Airlines flight on Wednesday. It's the latest in a string of incidents where faulty or poorly made lithium-ion batteries have caused gadgets to catch fire.
Emerging Tech

Photosynthesizing artificial leaf may be the air-cleaning tool we’ve dreamed of

Engineers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have invented an artificial leaf which could both clean up our air and provide a cost-effective type of fuel. Here's how it works.
Mobile

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-powered website creates freakishly lifelike faces of people who don’t exist

No, this isn't a picture of a missing person. It's a face generated by a new artificial intelligence on the website ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com. Here's how the impressive A.I. works.