Say goodbye to batteries, thanks to zero-power communication
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Say goodbye to batteries, thanks to zero-power communication

Say goodbye to batteries, thanks to zero-power communication

Zero-power communication technology is the next logical step in the future generation of B5G and 6G communications networks

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Rechargeable batteries power the smartphones, laptops, and many other gadgets that we now use on a daily basis. What many of us don’t realise however, batteries themselves contain a number of toxic chemicals that can pollute both water and land when disposed of and are not exactly easy to recycle. One such solution could be to get rid of batteries completely. Sound too good to be true? Perhaps not. This is the rationale behind OPPO’s zero-power communication technology.

Welcome to the era of zero-power devices, where the energy needed for communications is harvested from surrounding radio frequency energy— like TV and radio signals, or even wi-fi access points — without the need to replace or recharge batteries.

This may sound like something from a sci-fi movie based far into the future, however we believe that zero-power communication could become a reality in the next three to five years. If you’re wondering what this zero-power future might look like, join us as we take a trip through a day in the life of a zero-power device.

Let smarter technology do the work for you
If every morning feels like a mad rush as you search frantically to find your missing keys or credit card, zero-power communication technology could be just what you need. These small, low-cost, low-power, durable, and flexible devices can be stuck to just about anything, allowing you to easily locate whatever item seems to be eluding you.

Maybe you want to make the most out of your new augmented reality (AR) headset to play games or see how new furniture looks in your room before buying it. In order to create this accurate and realistic AR environment, AR headsets need to understand as much information about their surroundings as possible.

With zero-power devices that connect dozens of sensors and other zero-power devices around you, AR headsets or other devices are able to accurately work out their 3D position by measuring the spatial relationship between themselves and the other devices. The same technique could be used by your robotic vacuum cleaner to better map its route and avoid obstacles. Such seamless and convenient technology frees you up to focus more on what you’re doing rather than on the technology itself.

Knowing yourself, inside and out
Our relationship with technology continues to get closer and closer, from the phones in our pockets to the smartwatches on our wrists and wearable sensors even getting under our skin.

People today care more about their health and wellness than ever before. While current battery-power sensors might become a threat to users’ safety when put into the body, tiny flexible zero-power devices could be the perfect solution. The health-related information could be collected and shared with other devices, which are able to analyse it and provide usable data related to your health and wellbeing. Such data will help you know and understand your body on a completely new level.

This same technology could also help the outside world better understand who you are. From our passports, drivers’ licences, to work ID and gym membership cars, it can be annoying having to carry around so many different ID cards each day that essentially all perform the same task. With zero-power devices, your ID is a part of you at all times. Imagine just waving your hand across a sensor when entering the cinema or boarding a train, or shaking someone’s hand at a networking event to automatically connect with them on LinkedIn. These tiny devices — each around the size of a grain of rice — will help you and others to better know yourself, and with no need to replace or recharge the battery, you can be confident that they will never let you down when you need them most.

Tracking bird migration might sound like a niche occupation, but it’s an area in which miniature, low-cost, zero-power devices also have an important role to play. We’ve all seen bird tags and other tracking devices such as geolocators placed on birds, but these typically come with limitations in size and cost, as well as in long-term data transmission and processing. One of the more obvious drawbacks is that they will eventually lose power if left alone for too long. There’s also the risk that they could contaminate the environment in the unfortunate event that they somehow become separated from a bird in the wild.

With zero-power communication technology, researchers can instead fit birds with low cost, zero-power devices in larger numbers. Not only will they not need recharging, but the smaller tags are also great for tracking tiny birds like sparrows or robins, while their waterproof and flexible properties make them ideal for monitoring the unpredictable life of a bird in migration. By connecting to nearby radio frequencies and sending back precise, real-time location data, it will even be possible to generate accurate migration maps that will help scientists in their efforts to conserve bird numbers in the wild.

As mind-boggling as it might sound, zero-power communication technology is the next logical step in the future generation of B5G and 6G communications networks, and a vital link in creating a more intelligent and sustainable ecosystem of connected products.

Our battery, charging, and other technology has helped to save energy by enhancing automation and improving energy efficiency across our devices. While our innovations may start with technology, their end game is always focused on advancing society and improving the quality of life for all.

Ethan Xue is the president of OPPO MEA

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