Inexpensive, Ant-Sized Radio Chip to Control the 'Internet of Things'
A Stanford University engineering team has built a radio the size of an ant that gathers all the power it needs from the same electromagnetic waves that carry signals to its receiving antenna. Designed to compute, execute, and relay commands, the tiny wireless chip costs pennies to manufacture – making it cheap enough to become the missing link between the Internet and the linked-together smart gadgets envisioned in the 'Internet of Things.' Much of the infrastructure needed to enable people to control sensors and devices remotely already exists - there is the Internet to carry commands around the globe, and computers and smartphones to issue the commands. What's missing is a wireless controller cheap enough to so that it can be installed on any gadget anywhere. To build this tiny device, every function in the radio had to be reengineered. The antenna had to be small, one-tenth the size of a Wi-Fi antenna, and operate at the incredibly fast rate of 24 billion cycles per second. Standard transistors could not easily process signals that oscillate that fast, so the Stanford team had to improve basic circuit and electronic design. Many other such tweaks were needed but in the end the team managed to put all the necessary components on one chip.