The Power Over WiFi (PoWiFi) system is one of the most innovative and game-changing technologies of the year, according to Popular Science, which included it in the magazine's annual 'Best of What's New 2015' awards announced yesterday, researchers said.

"For the first time we've shown that you can use WiFi devices to power the sensors in cameras and other devices," said lead author Vamsi Talla, a University of Washington (UW) electrical engineering doctoral student.

"We also made a system that can co-exist as a WiFi router and a power source, it doesn't degrade the quality of your WiFi signals while it's powering devices," said Talla. PoWiFi could help enable development of the Internet of Things, where small computing sensors are embedded in everyday objects like cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, air conditioners, mobile devices, allowing those devices to 'talk' to each other, researchers said.

But one major challenge is how to energise those low-power sensors and actuators without needing to plug them into a power source as they become smaller and more numerous. The team found that the peak energy contained in untapped, ambient Wi-Fi signals often came close to meeting the operating requirements for some low-power devices.

The team also developed sensors that can be integrated in devices to harvest the power.