Custom installers are consistently being promised products that could make their lives easier, but the latest creation by Dutch researchers could actually revolutionise the industry.

Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) have developed the smallest wireless temperature sensor ever created – and best of all, it doesn’t need wiring in.

The wireless temperature sensor is powered by the radio waves that are part of the sensor’s wireless network, meaning a battery needn’t be replaced and it can be placed literally anywhere in the room.

Researchers behind the project heralded the technology as an ‘important development’ on route towards smart buildings; although the applications for the technology are plentiful.

Futurologists have already envisioned a future where homes are full of tiny sensors able to detect things such as temperature changes, water leaks or when someone enters a room. Installers will have an easier job installing those sensors if they don’t require any wiring in and can seamlessly be placed anywhere in the home; inside walls, ceilings or in plain-sight.

The technology has been designed specifically to work under a layer of paint, plaster or concrete; Peter Baltus, TU/e professor of wireless technology, explains, this makes the sensor easy to incorporate in buildings, for instance by ‘painting’ it onto the wall with the latex.

It’s not just the wireless power that makes this temperature sensor impressive; it’s also the sheer size of the thing.

Hao Gao, who was awarded his PHD yesterday, developed a sensor that measured just 2sq mm and weighed a mere 1.6mg – the equivalent of a grain of sand.

Currently there are some limitations with the technology, as expected from a research project. One limitation is the fact that the sensor only has a range of 2.5cm; although the researchers expect to extend this to a metre within a year and ultimately work towards a range of 5m.

To power the sensor installers of the future will need to also utilise the specially developed router; which features an antenna that sends radio waves to the sensors to power them. Since the energy transfer is accurately targeted at the sensor however, the router is designed to consume very little power as a result.

Embedded inside the temperature sensor is a tiny antenna that can capture the energy transmitted from the router. The sensor then stores that energy and only switches on when it has stored enough power. Once switched on the sensor will then measure the temperature and send a signal back to the router; allowing the router to make a decision based on the variable it receives.

While currently the technology has been employed for temperature usage; the researchers admit that it can be adapted for other wireless sensors, such as movement, light and humidity.

Producing the sensors is also relatively affordable – in fact the researchers estimate that mass production will keep the cost of a sensor down to around 20 cents (13p). The sensor is based on common mass-produced 65-nm CMOS technology, which is designed for cameras.

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