The latest version of Samsung’s Eco Remote gets energy from both spare Wi-Fi signals and solar power
Samsung has created a television remote control that doesn’t require batteries, as it draws power by harvesting otherwise wasted energy emitted by Wi-Fi routers.
The firm originally launched the Eco Remote as a solar-powered device last year. Samsung said at the time the remote could prevent 99 million AAA batteries going to landfill over the next seven years. Now, at the 2022 CES technology trade show in Las Vegas, the firm has revealed a new version of the device that includes a tiny antennae that can capture Wi-Fi signals from a distance of up to 40 metres, allowing it to charge even in dark rooms.
The company says it will include the remote control with new televisions and other home appliances. Samsung didn’t respond to a request for comment on the exact technical specifications of the device.
Gus Cheng Zhang at the University of Manchester, UK, says that the vast majority of the signals from Wi-Fi routers that aren’t intercepted by laptops and other devices are normally wasted. “They will be absorbed somewhere because of conservation of energy,” he says. “It’s most likely that when they hit metallic surfaces they’ll be turned into eddy currents and then absorbed and be turned into heat.”
“It’s definitely a brilliant idea, and a very good example of energy harvesting,” he says of the remote control – and suggests that in theory you could power anything in the same way, although it would make little sense from an engineering standpoint. “You have a router that is emitting RF [radio frequency] signals that’s approximately rated at 1 watt, which is limited by regulations. And that’s mostly just concerns about safety,” he says. “There is no technical limitation to how much power can be transmitted from the router to a device.”
Zhang says there are practical applications for the technology in certain niches, although solar power can offer similar output for devices with low power needs at less cost. Medical implants are one area where it makes sense and is in fact already being used, albeit with different frequencies to Wi-Fi that can better penetrate the human body.
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