Tower Powered Cell Phones Possible

June 11, 2017

Reprinted from Inside Towers

After developing a battery-free cell phone, researchers at the University of Washington are setting their sights on adapting their base station design to enable cell towers and other wireless devices to power cell phones. The new technology was announced in a paper published in the Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies on July 1. Instead of a battery, the phone produces power from light or ambient radio signals, says Eurekalert.org.

Co-author Shyam Gollakota, an associate professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University, said the project was difficult. “To achieve the really, really low power consumption that you need to run a phone by harvesting energy from the environment, we had to fundamentally rethink how these devices are designed,” he said.

To save energy, the team eliminated the need to convert analog signals conveying sound into digital data. Instead, an antenna converts motion from vibrations in the microphone into standard analog radio signals that are emitted by cellular base stations. Speech patterns are encoded in the signals, and the phone’s speaker converts the signals into sound. With less options to use power, the device operates on solar power and ambient radio signals transmitted from base stations and cell towers.