Energy harvesting Bluetooth chip startup targets IoT

November 03, 2017 // By Peter Clarke
A group of engineers from Qualcomm are developing a Bluetooth chip powered by energy harvested from radio waves.

The team at Wiliot in San Diego was part of Wi-Fi pioneer Wilocity when it was acquired by Qualcomm in 2014. Using RF as the energy source means the Bluetooth chip will have an infinite lifetime and include processing and sensors. As it will be available at a fraction of the price of traditional devices it will be an enabler of an IoT revolution, the company claims. The power management of the energy harvesting sources is a key requirement to make the development a success.

Wiliot has closed a $5 million funding round with Qualcomm Ventures and Merck Ventures BV (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), a subsidiary of chemicals company Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. This is in addition to $14 million funding provided by Grove Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, and 83North Venture Capital in January 2017, the month Wiliot was founded. In all, Wiliot has raised a total of $19m in its first 10 months as a semiconductor company.

The company plans to achieve hardware proof of its technology in 2H18 and deliver products to the market place early in 2019 to re-energize the Bluetooth beacon marketplace.

"This new technology will allow a sensor, radio, processor combination to be embedded in products, packaging, walls and furniture so that these things can be smarter and communicate with other Bluetooth devices, including smartphones," said Tal Tamir, CEO and co-founder of Wiliot, in a statement. "We will enable everything to be intelligent and every place we go and anything we wear, touch or use will include sensing, connected, passive devices with an unlimited lifetime."

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