A new technology called Freevolt could be about to transform the internet of things by powering sensors from wireless energy in the air.
Freevolt harvests energy from RF frequency waves from radio masts and wireless networks, which bounce around the atmosphere. Everything from 2G to 5G networks and even your home Wi-Fi are all food for Freevolt, turning wasted energy into real power.
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Now it's not going to power your iPhone quite yet, but this isn't just a theoretical breakthrough. Drayson can harvest enough power to run basic sensors, and it's already come to market with a mobile air quality sensor that never requires charging, which goes on sale today. More on that shortly.
Freevolt fits onto a board about the size of a credit card, but Drayson Technologies has confirmed its already working on downsizing the board to fit into wearables and smartwatch straps, and developing a flexible version for smart clothing too.
"Companies have been researching how to harvest energy from WiFi, cellular and broadcast networks for many years," said Lord Drayson. "But it is difficult, because there is only a small amount of energy to harvest and achieving the right level of rectifying efficiency has been the issue – up until now."
And for now at least, it's sensors where Freevolt's big opportunity lies. It could power beacons in smart cities, smart home tech such as thermostats or smoke alarms and even wearables so they never require their batteries changed.
Freevolt has been developed by Drayson Technologies, a British technology company owned by Lord Drayson. It's primarily a research and development outfit, but Lord Drayson also owns his own racing team – Drayson Racing.
It also launched its first commercial product using Freevolt: the CleanSpace air sensor. An ambitious large scale project, CleanSpace monitors air pollution and reports it into an app, so you can track air quality around you and feed data back to a larger network.
It's clearly a use case close to Lord Drayson's heart, who is a lifetime asthmatic. The £55 price tag of the sensor includes donations to a number of charities, and you can build up monetary rewards for using clean energy transport including cycling and electric cars, which can be spent at Amazon, Halfords and other retailers.
CleanSpace is an interesting application for Freevolt, but in truth, the technology itself has much bigger potential. Freevolt sensors can be hidden out of view and even in the fabric of buildings, networked together to harvest enough energy to power advertising boards and outdoor displays.