Researchers from the University of Washington have found a way to use a Wi-Fi router to wirelessly charge batteries for a variety of devices, while simultaneously offering users unhindered access to wireless Internet.
The best part about it is that the new tech is compatible with existing wireless routers, which could be upgraded via a simple firmware update to support it.
In theory, that means mobile devices including iPhones and Android handsets could be wirelessly charged in the near future while connected to such a router. However, there are still some barriers that would prevent existing mobile devices from being charged with help of PoWiFi today.
First of all, as Wired reports, the FCC imposes a 1W max power output for Wi-Fi routers, which means current routers wouldn't be able to recharge an iPhone or Android phone under current rules.
Secondly, the mobile device should have special sensors that would be able to harvest radio frequency emitted by the router and turn it into DC power. But that might be possible with help of smart cases in the future, like the Nikola Labs case that can harvest wireless energy and turn it into battery power.
Meanwhile, the researchers have been able to wirelessly charge temperature sensors, a camera and rechargeable batteries from ranges of up to 20 feet, 17 feet and 28 feet, respectively, with the help of an existing Asus RT-AC68U router running on modified firmware.
The service has also been tested in six homes in Seattle, with users saying they have not encountered any Wi-Fi Internet performance issues in the process – in fact, one tester said his Internet speed has gone up, Popular Science says.
"If we wanted to just blast as much power as we possibly can, that would kill your Wi-Fi, because you'd have power on the channel all the time," researcher Bryce Kellogg said. "We optimized the router so that we can deliver what seems like, to the sensor, constant power without impacting your Wi-Fi too much
Instead of having continuous power on one of your Wi-Fi channels, we split it among your three non-overlapping Wi-Fi channels. That allows us to deliver about the same amount of power without impacting any one channel very much."
It's not clear when PoWiFi will be available commercially, and whether it'll target home or enterprise customers, but the technology certainly sounds impressive enough and it'll likely further be improved in the future.