Israeli company Wiliot is developing a tiny, low-cost Bluetooth beacon that will have no battery but rely on drawing radiofrequency energy from nearby Bluetooth and WiFi networks.
It’s a ground-breaking prospect that promises to allow organisations to add communications to almost anything at very low cost, and without need for power.
Wiliot claims the device will be the size of a fingernail and cost less than $US1, able to receive and transmit data and perform a limited amount of computation. However, it has given no indication of what inputs will be available to enable the device to perform useful functions.
The company claims the device will be the size of a fingernail and cost less than $US1, able to receive and transmit data and perform a limited amount of computation. However, it has given no indication of what inputs will be available to enable the device to perform useful functions.
CEO and founder Tal Tamir says Wiliot’s technology will enable a sensor/radio/processor combination to be embedded in products, packaging, walls and furniture enabling them to communicate with other Bluetooth devices, including smartphones.
“We will enable everything to be intelligent and every place we go and anything we wear, touch or use will include sensing, connected, passive devices with an unlimited lifetime,” he says.
The company aims to have proof-of-concepts trials in the second half of 2018 and product on the market in early 2019. It claims its technology will revolutionise the current Bluetooth beacon marketplace, which it says has reached a floor on reductions in cost, size and ease of maintenance that has hindered the widespread adoption of beacons.
Wiliot was formed by a group of wireless engineers that previously started Wilocity, a gigabit WiFi pioneer acquired by Qualcomm. It has raised $US19 million in venture funding since January 2017. The most recent $US5 million round, in November, drew funding from Qualcomm Ventures, the investment arm of Qualcomm, and M Ventures, the venture capital arm of Merck KGaA,
Qualcomm Ventures Israel director Boaz Peer said the technology represented “the next great leap,” in IoT and would “drive exponential growth for the entire IoT ecosystem, from smartphones and WiFi hubs to battery powered beacons.”
The Wiliot technology is reported to make use of the erratic nature of ambient RF energy without the need for battery backup by using a form of processing the company calls wave computing, described as a way to intelligently prioritise computing and data storage activities according to the available RF energy.
It will also use a technology known as backscatter in which data is modulated onto existing RF signals reflected by the device. A group at the University of Washington earlier this year demonstrated the viability of backscatter and is aiming to have commercial product on the market in early 2018 via startup Jeeva Wireless.
Jeeva claims its technology provides WiFi, ZigBee, Bluetooth and long-range connectivity at 10,000 times less power than the best solutions currently on the market.