Crowdfunding Follies: Proof That Ohm’s Law Is Arcane Knowledge

This is a cell phone case that can recharge a cellphone using energy captured from its own radio. It’s been featured on dozens of tech blogs, wowed judges at TechCrunch Disrupt, and it’s a Kickstarter Staff Pick. It’s also proof that nearly everyone in the media who claims any knowledge of technology has no idea behind the foundational properties of technology.

What it is

The Nikola Phone Case from Nikola Labs is a very special phone case for the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6. The claims behind this cell phone case state it will recharge your battery by capturing radio energy put out by the cell phone itself. This means capturing RF from the WiFi and cellular transmitters. This captured energy is then converted into something that can recharge the phone, is sent to the USB or Lightning port, and – theoretically – the cycle of electrons turning into photons begins again.

Why it’s crap

Astonishingly, this is not a perpetual motion machine, a device that is completely impractical, or an outright fraud. It’s deceptively correct when it comes to the physics of this device, and as always implementation is everything.

Inside each Nikola Phone Case is a small antenna, boost converter, and circuitry to capture the RF energy coming from the phone. This phone case will actually harvest RF energy, but it will never be able to extend the life of the phone’s battery. Nikola Labs claims their phone case will recover 30% of a battery’s life by harvesting RF energy and using that energy to recharge the phone. However, the energy for this RF energy harvesting scheme comes from the phone itself. The captured energy that would – ideally – end up at a cell phone tower or WiFi router will disappear into this cell phone case. This results in both a dramatic decrease in reception and most likely an increase in power draw due to the phone increasing its transmit power.

To Nikola Labs’ credit, the FAQ on their Kickstarter does address concerns that a phone’s transmitter and antenna may be affected:

The device may change the impedance and overall pattern slightly. We are performing detail characterization of these changes, if any.

Nikola Labs has not performed due diligence on their design. There is a method that will report the RSSI of the cellular radio in an Android phone. Any competent engineer would, upon first seeing this device, figure out if signal strength is affected. This can be done in a few dozen lines of Java. It can be done in under an hour by someone who has never programmed an Android device. Nikola Labs does not provide a comparison of the signal strength of a phone both with and without their case. This is evidence of incompetence, if not malice.

Simply by definition, any device that captures RF energy will ‘shadow’ the transmission. Just like putting a solar panel in front of a flashlight, energy will be captured, but the overall light output of the flashlight and solar panel system will decrease. Nikola Labs has an answer to that:

The device harvests the RF energy around the phone, which is usually absorbed by the hand holding the phone.

It is true that the human body will absorb RF coming out of a phone. WiFi works on the same frequencies as a microwave oven, and defrosting a piece of chicken in a microwave isn’t that much different from grabbing an antenna on a router. Lower powers and different geometries aside, you are right now absorbing microwaves from a WiFi router.

The best way of understanding why simply holding a phone isn’t a very big deal is coming at it from the direction of designing a smart phone. One of the biggest drivers behind the design of a cell phone is how long it will last on a single charge. You can design a phone with a powerful CPU and a huge screen, but the battery won’t last long. Likewise, the engineers that design cell phones will put the antennas in an out of the way place, where they won’t be absorbed by the human body. The Nikola Labs case destroys the engineering decisions inside each cell phone. Think about it; if power was wasted inside a cell phone, wouldn’t engineers at Apple and Samsung work to reduce that waste?

Why everything else is crap, too

There is simply no excuse why hundreds of people would give tens of thousands of dollars to a company that makes outrageous claims with zero evidence. One could attribute this to the public’s severe lack of understanding when dealing with electricity or radio. This, in my opinion, is far too kind.

Nikola Labs’ Kickstarter would not exist without the help of Kickstarter itself and members of the tech media. We first heard of Nikola Labs at TechCrunch Disrupt, where four judges could not find anything wrong with this technology. The presentation at Disrupt went on to be covered by Engadget and a flurry of other tech blogs. Now, dozens of other tech blogs have reported on this Kickstarter, and Kickstarter itself has named it a Staff Pick.

Yes, there are stupid people out there. There are people who will throw money at anything. There are also people who will Barnum up the place sell snake oil to rubes. The fact that Kickstarter would endorse something without a technical assessment defies belief. The only conceivable reason this could be a Staff Pick on Kickstarter is because Kickstarter believes it will be funded, thus earning them a percentage of gross.

This is the end of capitalism, folks. No longer do you need to innovate and make a better mouse trap. All you need to do is convince enough people that you’ve made a better mouse trap.

147 thoughts on “Crowdfunding Follies: Proof That Ohm’s Law Is Arcane Knowledge

  1. .. or you could just turn off the phone completely when not in use. Thus cutting the WiFi and RF power output to zero and increasing the battery life by weeks if not months… I sense a cleverly worded kickstarter for a device that disconnects the battery when it senses that you are not using the phone }:¬)

    1. You might not need to go that far. “Feature” phones last a week on one charge. Why is it not possible to leave active only that common subset of functionality in a “smart” phone?

      1. That’s pretty much what Sony is doing with what they call the “stamina” mode. It stops everything but what you need (ie, the phone part). The results are pretty good, if that’s what you want in a smartphone.

      2. Featurephones have fraction of the DRAM because their software is so simple, which keeps the idle power consumption low. Memory is the main power draw in these devices, because it needs to be continuously refreshed, and static ram is expensive.

        On the active side, they have smaller and dimmer screens, and if they come with a physical keyboard they save the power draw of a touch sensor as well.

      3. It can be nokia with symbian did this in with ‘situations’ I used to switch between gsm and 3g when in lower coverage area. But then people wanted androids and iphones and nokia died, maybe this is made for the old iphone where you were holding it wrong :)

    2. @andrewjhull
      It’s true that a lot of people who own smartphones got them either as a status symbol or because they felt like they had to, and would be better off with a feature phone.

      It’s possible, however, to actually use the phone even when you aren’t *using* it. I went hiking over the weekend, taking photos as I went. When I got home, Android offered to make a “story” for me. Having no idea what this mean, I tapped ‘yes.’ It proceeded to show me a slideshow arranged chronologically, with groups of photos separated by a little animated map showing my progress along the trail and indicating where the photos were taken. This feature would have been completely broken if I had turned the phone off.

      And that’s not to mention the appointment reminder, alarm clock, step counter, and other features that continue to work while the phone isn’t being used.

      So, uh, use your phone however you want, but try not to be a smug luddite. There are use cases other than “literally only makes outgoing phonecalls.”

      1. Either – or – Longbattery Xor “all the whizbang, all the time..” If memory used zero power and wifi switched off when not in use and GSM/4g/5g/6g/Ng phones manage the trick of communicating with zero energy, then your battery will last a long time. Until then, you can have long battery life or Facebook/Youtube/twitter/Whateverapp always on… and a much shorter battery life. Physics is a hard problem to eliminate.
        As to “luddite”, I suspect that you kind of missed the point of my comment. The article details a scam… I suggested another similar scam.

  2. Hey, they should add solar panels to there case. The biggest power drain on my massive Note 4 is from the photons comming off the display and not rf transmission. I guess I will have to hold out for version 2 orr start my own Kickstarter.

    1. … and strap on a large peltier device to recover the heat lost… actually that might just work… }:¬) … if we ignore the woeful efficiency and other inconvenient properties of the physical universe.

      1. I’m gonna start a kickstarter for a rocking-motion charger so the phone can charge when I walk, like fancy watches do. Maybe convert the heat in my pants into electricity.

        1. That exist, it’s called Ampy. People think that it’ll actually be useful, but Dropkicker already debunked it. It has an internal 1000mAh battery, and you’d need to do at least an hour of running every day just to charge that battery, let alone your phone’s battery which is 2-3 times larger. Yet thousands of people eagerly lapped up this BS, and will be very disappointed.

          1. I meant to say that the hour of running doesn’t charge the 1000mAh in a day…you’d have to run an hour a day to charge the battery once during a full week. Using the best case efficiencies.

    2. That. It’s really fascinating to me that almost noone points out such a simple point: How the heck is this device supposed to recover 30% of my battery from RF if my cell phone isn’t using anywhere close to 30% of its battery on RF? Magic? Or, following Under the Dome logic, magnets?

      1. Harvest some of the RF, your phone will increase the power to keep up connection with the base station thus allow you to harvest more RF and let your phone increase power again etc… Free energy is free, duh !

      2. There’s still plenty of people in the world who think fuckin’ magnets are a source of energy.

        Is it fair to rip people off because they’re stupid? They won’t learn, so you can’t even say they’re getting a lesson out of it. It’s one of the problems of being smart in a world that isn’t so smart, you feel like the Greek Gods are messing with you.

      3. Actually, if you could tune the circuit to receive RF from outside the system, I.E. low AM signals, and rectify it – then you would be receiving energy from outside the “loop” so to speak. But the amount is of course fairly small, effected by location to the transmitter, and I doubt would charge anything of any significance after you remove the energy used to phase lock loop the signal to begin with. Energy from the air!! Better to use a potato and some wires. But the capturing of existing outgoing signals from within the system and reusing that? That’s incredibly funny they (the judges) would fall for that. That’s like filling your bathtub with a bucket that you scooped water out of your bathtub with. I suppose putting crystals under my bed while wearing the phone will increase the battery life also….

  3. I no longer back any crowd funding campaigns no matter how wonderful technically or altruistically they appear, having only about a 50% success rate of actually receiving the rewards from Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Thanks for having the courage to call this out on Hackaday and for supporting technical rigor in vetting new ideas.

    1. Crowdfunding is just another mechanism for obtaining venture capital investment but instead of getting a piece of the company you get some object that may or may have greater value than your initial investment if it succeeds or gets through the first phase. I have lost count of the number of tech start-ups I have worked for that started with an initial round of venture capital and then imploded because the technology was not viable. The success rate is abysmal. I would not be surprised if the FTC is not taking a close look at Kickstarter and the like.

      1. You are describing in a way the early days of the PC and local area networks. Many, many companies going into business with venture capital, and going out of business when that runs out. The first 4 computer jobs I held in the late 70’s to early 80’s were almost 2 years to the day – you could count it – that they would go belly up, and you would loose that last paycheck and your job. Wild, wild, west back in the day. Did I mention that the sales people ALWAYS sold stuff that didn’t exist yet? and it was up to the Programmers/Analysts to figure out how to deliver an impossible schedule for something that had never been done before? I kinda miss those days….

    2. That’s odd, I’ve got a 100% rate for all the ones I’ve donated to (pending the ones that are still in development/shipping stage: a game still being developed, some comics being printed, album finishing recording, and the DominoIO [which is the only one I question]). Worst case, I’ve lost out on one project.

      Here’s the secret, I don’t fund people who I don’t know from some other source. I’ll fund a first time web comic iff the creator seems to have done some work on pricing publishing data. If they’ve already published before, I’ll fund it if I like the comic. Albums I’ll fund for indie artists I like who, again, have done a small run album. Sure, occasionally I just say “take my money” to projects like Torrment, because Planescape was amazing and I’m willing to wait. All this applies identically to hardware; new makers who show their work ahead of time on their BOM and prices, established makers with a known record for small/large products, and occasional pie-in-the-sky dream products.

      So, do your own research; just as if you were a venture capitalist. Look at the person/people behind the product and see if they have done enough work to convince you if you don’t know them; or if they have a good record for you to trust them. But you have to do due diligence.

      1. The problem with a lot of people is they want someone to do that kind of legwork for them. I get it all the time as a programmer. I get people coming up to me and demand (very rarely ask) that I create their next big software project for them using strictly their ideas. Games are most common followed closely by smartphone apps. I usually tell them to go do it themselves which is invariably followed by, “it’s so easy you can do it.” Yeah…

        I got a similar vibe when I joined a robotics startup and discovered, within the first week, the guy trying to pull a team together to create a “Perpetual bot” by using generators on two wheels to power a computer and a motor on a third wheel. They wanted me to write the firmware for the power monitoring system because the “battery backup” wasn’t lasting as long as they thought it should.

        Wanna guess how long that startup lasted?

    3. I’ve had quite a success rate. Many things coming late, but everything funded has arrived.
      About all I can complain about is maybe missing the offline mode in a video-game.

      Do your research, ensure the company or people are trust worthy and its plausible they can do it.

      I dont even mind failures myself, provided there was a chance to start with and those involved genuinely tried.

  4. “This is the end of capitalism”: Don’t panic. You’ve always been able to fool some of the people some of the time. It’s a problem in politics, capitalism, and every other economic system. A free market has better checks and balances to squash this sort of thing than any other system. It’s not perfect: some people will get swindled. But it’s better than a system where all you have to do is fool a few people in charge, and they’ll force the whole populace to go along with it. At least in a free market, no one can wield that sort of authority.

      1. I genuinely think in the audiophile case it’s a manifestation of a mental illness. Same way hoarders keep stuff in case it turns out useful one day (sure there’s more than a few here who’re guilty of that), except with hoarders there’s no lower limit on “might be useful”. In the case of “audiophiles” (using the word til the syndrome is indentified) there’s no upper limit to what they needlessly spend.

        Thing is, what if one was presented with two cables, each the same price, but using different nonsense claims? You can’t use both, which would he pick? I’d guess the one that fits his existing brain-nonsense closest.

        Still it’s sad, starving children etc, and people are spending money on bits of wire when there’s mathematics, as well as double blind testing, that PROVE it’s rubbish.

        1. I have to agree here.
          I’ve walked into a local “audiophile” shop in my local area just for the amusement value.

          If I remember their spiel correctly, the current cable du-jour was one that had an AA battery in a holder “tastefully” blended into one end of the cable, which was supposed to “offset the bias” or some such, to allowing the audio signal to pass more efficiently.

          And for that bit of creative BS-ery, they’d happily lighten your pocket to the tune of $1.2k per 10′ length as I recall.

          1. Wow! Your speaker really won’t like that DC bias, and I dunno if the amp will be happy either. Hopefully the battery wasn’t connected, using it’s influence in a more subtle way that only people with golden ears can hear.

            It really goes to show though… spending all that money for the various bits of wire in the name of reducing noise, then sticking 1.5 volts in there! Fortunately when the battery leaks from being charged / discharged at a rate of KHz, they can sell you a brand new cable. The new 9V PP3s should be in by then.

    1. Except the medical industry, oil & gas industry, electric utilities, automobile industry, education, etc. (Comcast, Pfizer, Halliburton, HUD, student “loans” as the new indentured servitude, media conglomerates- I could continue…)

      1. Every industry you list is tightly connected to the government via subsidies, regulations, government-protected monopolies, etc., so they don’t operate in a free market.

        1. Pretty sure vastly more people will be getting things that don’t work without those regulations. Especially for medicine.
          The idea the free market is a market cure all is itself snake oil.

  5. With products like this and the batteriser, which are created by people intentionally lying or people ignorant of basic physics principles, it is making it harder to trust crowdfunded platforms. There is already enough risk in crowdfunding an honest concept. If more of these frauds slip through the quality controls on crowdfunding platforms I think it will start to poison the well for all the honest projects out there and make it harder to get funding.

    1. I think that is unfair to the batteriser. A device like the batteriser could potentially work in some niche applications (like a really badly designed gadget, or if you want to use a nimh in one of the rare gadgets that can’t handle that). They were lying through their teeth about its performance and got the media to trumpet their wild claims, but at the end of the day their product is the same kind of thing that is built in to most battery powered gadgets already.

      This on the other hand is so insanely bonkers they should have been laughed of stage from the beginning.

      1. I’ve got so much old camera gear that absolutely hate nimh rechargeables. Personally, rather than a boost for nimh, I’ve wanted to build a higher volt LiPo or LiFePo pack that fits in the 4 long or 2×2 AA pack and provides the right 6v output on the two contacts, but internally is not nihm or alkaline cells,

  6. The extremely troubling aspect is that several people seem to have current appointments at Ohio state university, if their campaign is to be believed. I would think the University would have an interest against this type of science based fraud.

        1. Psychology is a science in principle, but it has a data quality problem so overwhelming and pervasive that it’s not a science in practice. The vast majority of studies are done on college students or prisoners, which are not even remotely representative groups.

          1. You could maybe call it a young science. They’ve only had 100 years and the subject is a teeny bit complicated. As long as they’re using the right methods, in a framework that makes sense, there could be some useful things to get out of it. Possibly not ever a cure for all “mental” problems, but then so many problems nowadays are societal in nature. So many people are depresed because modern life spends so much effort to depress them. What’s the quote about psychiatry bending people to fit into an unjust world?

  7. I agree with the bulk of this post but the closing statement is kind of laughable. Maybe it’s meant as really subtle irony, but it seems like the author hasn’t been paying much attention to the world of tech. Very nearly every claim of “innovation” is pure marketing lies. Apple hasn’t really innovated since the second iPhone and everything since then has been essentially the same tech with different specs or form factors. Again, I agree with everything else in this post, but capitalism has been eatting itself from the inside with claims of “innovation” for decades. It survives because we’re all like Fox Mulder–we want to believe.

    1. I dunno, theres still plenty of innovation, but it doesn’t fit the yearly tech cycle they want us to buy into.
      I look towards stuff like Googles rader-on-a-chip or Microsofts Hololens.
      Remains to be seen how useful this stuff is, but that sort of thing seems genuinely new at the consumer level.

      Meanwhile on phones isn’t there some out that can sense your fingers hovering now?

      Apple hogs the lime light – but they have always been more a “designer brand” for innovations done elsewhere. (with a few exceptions).

      1. Yup, Apple sell on image, and marketing, that’s mostly what they really are. The Iphone’s got some nice hardware but Apple didn’t invent it, they just bought the resulting components . Most people don’t buy based on technical specs, or even real usefulness. Nobody pays 4 or 5x the price of an equivalent phone for an Apple cos it’s 4x better, they get it as a status symbol. They won’t use most of the features.

        Which is why so many shops give them away for £60 with a ludicrously-priced 4-year contract, for people who can’t afford the real price. Which people buy, not thinking about the fact their phone won’t be very impressive next year when the new ones come out, never mind 4 years. Maybe they default a lot and that’s part of the reason the price is so high. Actually would be interesting to see that, how many people who buy Apples on silly contracts default, vs other phones.

        This is in the UK, a heavy phone-subsidising country.

        My Android was pretty cheap, full of technical stuff, and branded by it’s actual manufacturer.

    1. Poor Nikola, who is directly responsible for us having electricity today. Without AC power, it wouldn’t be practical for every home to have more than a lightbulb each. Which Edison ALSO didn’t invent. And yet his name’s almost exclusively used by loons and liars.

    2. I thought Tesla wanted to run direct current to homes, but that other guy ( can’ t remember his name right now ) said it would be to dangerous – hence- A.C. and all these stupid transformers and rectifiers. Yeah, what a rip Tesla was!

          1. He’s not the only one. Guy at work has a PH.D and he’s convinced Tesla wanted DC as well. Problem is, he wants anyone who disputes that to present the proof to him and when we do, never accepts it.

            And yeah, he holds Edison pretty highly as well. Bell too.

  8. Maybe I’m just dense, but the very idea of harvesting energy from a closed system for re-use in that same system sounds too much like the bases of perpetual motion or fiat currency. I thought the entire idea of energy harvesting was to gather wayward energy from outside the system for use inside the system. In short: Wouldn’t it make more sense to be gathering ambient RF from the myriad sources? I can’t imagine that the FCC would like that very much, though.

      1. I went and read it. In the ‘Conclusion’ it said RF can be a “… source of energy if it can be effectively and efficiently harvested.” The ‘IF’ is all that matters. They’re selling something that MIGHT work. I’m not buying ‘IT’!

    1. What I think they’re doing is trying to trap the energy. This is no different than a multistage steam turbine trying to squeeze every watt of energy out for electricity generation or regenerative braking on a hybrid. However, cost skyrockets exponentially as you try to get the last bits of energy. There’s a point where it’s not worthwhile. Conservation is a more efficient option, but needs to be considered farther in advance.

      I’m assuming most cell antenna still put out energy in a broad disk shape, but there’s still energy that goes in directions that aren’t ever going to reach a usable source. So, it’s probably trying to catch this off axis energy. However, this also means that your phone is going to get really picky about orientation. Worse phone calls while laying down, or while the phone is in your backpack, for instance.

      It’s also going to probably leech signal strength, so the only time it may not affect reception is when you’re at full bars all the time (excess gain at minimum transmit power). IF that happens, it would have the same effect as having a lower energy transmit setting in the phone itself, except far more inefficient since it’s regenerating instead of conserving. I somewhat doubt that the chip manufacturers haven’t optimized the radio to this extent due to battery life concerns.

      As for gathering RF, its difficult to grab energy broadband, while the phone case has defined frequencies. As for gathering power “from the ether”, this has been discussed before. FCC should have no issue as you’re not interfering. Most of the energy you’d absorb would be lost to the environment anyway and often wouldn’t want it to bounce back and interfere with the primary signal generator (unless its radar). Crystal radios and passive RFID tags basically do this in a narrow band approach already.

      1. “there’s still energy that goes in directions that aren’t ever going to reach a usable source…”
        How do you know which direction that is? Or is this like the broken clock that is right twice a day — every so often the case faces the right direction?

      2. Your analogy with regenerative braking is wrong. Regenerative braking is trying to get energy from where it would, otherwise, be lost in heat. Harvesting RF from your phone to charge your phone is like tying a generator to an electric engine to give power to your engine. How dumb does it sound to you ? (actually, I talked with someone who was convinced that tying two engine together in a loop would produce free energy, he said that he saw this on It really worth a look, soooo funny)

      1. Because, like the article mentioned, you’re removing RF energy from the ambient signals and potentially harvesting power that was intended for communication. Interference caused by the harvester could trigger complaints. Also, communication jamming devices are illegal, and turning many mobile devices into “RF shadow casting” devices could be considered a sort of intentional interference.

        1. > Also, communication jamming devices are illegal, and turning many mobile devices into “RF shadow casting” devices could be considered a sort of intentional interference.

          There’s another one! This thing can’t even pass FCC!

          1. I honestly don’t know. It reminds me of inductively harvesting energy from overhead power lines. The power company can measure the inductive load, because it is removing energy from their system (for free).

        2. One more time. PASSIVE RECEIVERS are not regulated by the FCC! (unless by some poor design the LO signal is bleeding out of the box and becoming an ’emitter’ causing interference). As for “harvesting power”, yes, if you try and do that to a 600kv utility line running adjacent to your land, the power company will most definitely have something to say about it. They *WILL* notice it and send crews out to investigate. There have been documented cases of technically minded thieves setting up devices to take advantage of the EM fields near a 600kv line.

          However, in this instance, “harvesting” RF is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a regulatory matter. If it were, what the heck is multipath distortion ? You think the FCC is going to fine a building owner for “interfering” with an FM broadcast signal by virtue of his building being in the way ?? “SMH” !!!!!

          1. Thanks for bringing me up to speed on that. To expound a bit, would any resonant geometry in the signal’s path essentially remove energy from the signal? Such that, by adding this device to the cell phone, you’re not really weakening the incoming signals any more than the cell phone’s own antenna does?

          2. Plz show me, because I’d love to see it, proof of the old “coil near a power line” story. Because it’s an urban legend.

            I’m also not sure how the power company would notice, do they have voltage monitors at regular points on the pylons? 600KV monitors? For lines that power thousands of houses, and they’re gonna notice the draw of one house?

  9. This is in fact a problem with technology in general. We progressing faster and faster to point where even a person with above average knowledge of technology cannot tell what is possible and what is not. Clarke’s third law “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” is essentially where we are progressing to and it means a larger and larger portion of the population have no idea how things work.

    There was recently an indiegogo campaign for a small device that can instantly tell you exact how many calories are in your meal simply by pointing at it. To anyone with any scientific knowledge it is obvious this is not possible with current technology but to the average person it doesn’t seem to be.

    I do find it pretty disgraceful that none of these crowdfunding sites don’t do even the slightest due diligence on whether a product is even possible or not.

    1. That’s not their business model. They’re in the business of getting things funded. It makes no difference to them whether anyone gets anything. When it comes to funding these things you have to look at them as if they’re gambling. There are VERY few projects that I’d consider funding, and they’re from people I know, like Great Scott Gadgets, for example.

  10. Powercast have an rf energy harvester IC but the power levels are micro watts to low mini watts. Great for a low power sensor that’s asleep 99% of the time, but not going to charge your cell phone battery.

  11. In there comments section they seem to answer easy questions but ignore anything that casts doubt on their claims, Shame you have to be backer to comment I would love to tell them how ridiculous this concept is.

  12. Because we are in the world of paid media. Snowball effect that’s what american companies are good at now. No real innovations. That’s the reason why my website and its services exists to snowball a crowd.

    You can now buy kickstarter funders to kickstart the snowball effect and add media you get yourself the crowd you need. One look at their team and you know its all about selling not technology.

  13. “The maximum mW output of this device is 36mW for a typical duration of 56 milliseconds on the WiFi connection during active downloading. It is a pulse charge that repeats roughly every 120 milliseconds.”

    36mW During 56ms every 120ms. 56/(120+56)= 0.32
    36mW*0.32= 11.52mW In the best case scenario.

    1. When I was young, had a 100 mW walkie-talkie. got out pretty far. Later I had a ham radio- 5 to 600 W. SWR tuner, 50ft. tower stick with ground plane antenna. From Florida- talked to Canada, California, Virgin Islands… even Japan when ‘the skip was running’. The skip… Ionospheric signal skip. Hey… maybe we can Harvest Ion’s!

  14. I’ve seen harvesting RF done for small low power sensors and the accompanying low power electronics to record and transmit the data occasionally by wireless, one of the intents to was to be able to embed strain gauges in concrete structures such as bridges so a technician can come along and get readings without anything exposed and such. Heavy use of sleep modes and devouring of FM Radio, it was achievable. This though… ugh… For the most part the general population understands that you can’t get something from nothing (or that sometimes your better off not harvesting energy from certain things) in many contexts, but when i comes to electronics and especially generating power the ‘it’s magic it just works’ starts to creep into their minds.

    1. The fact that even I knew this kickstarter was as dodgy as a invention as they come and these brainiacs didn’t, tells me they blessed it for money.

      But there is also the slight possibility they may be educated idiots. Academia does tend to produce them.

  15. This just seems impossible with today’s technology. Although it is possible to harvest a small amount of energy from the RF waves, you would need a constant and large current source to charge the Li-ion battery inside. Although trickle-charging a Li-ion is possible, it’s not the preferred way and you would probably have to hack the internal circuitry of the phone.
    The same can be said for solar panels(small ones); you may get the voltage but not the current.

  16. And if you think the “end of capitalism” is here because a very visible and powerful institution has openly endorsed and promoted a snake oil salesman for a percentage, you need to visit a rotunda-topped building the the city of Washington, D.C.

  17. From their Kickstarter comments page: “The maximum mW output of this device is 36mW for a typical duration of 56 milliseconds on the WiFi connection during active downloading. It is a pulse charge that repeats roughly every 120 milliseconds.” If I got that right it’s 56 ms every 120+56 ms so 11,5 mW on average… so 2,3 mA with 100% efficiency at 5V… I have not done any testing on that but let’s assume I need 6 hours of downloading to fully discharge my 3000 mAh battery – that’ll be 500 mA drain and that 2,3 mA “saving” will give me ca. 100 extra seconds of downloading!

  18. “The only conceivable reason this could be a Staff Pick on Kickstarter is because Kickstarter believes it will be funded, thus earning them a percentage of gross.”

    No, there’s a far simpler explanation: the Kickstarter staff member(s) concerned are just as technologically illiterate as the TechCrunch Disrupt judges.

  19. Soon as I realised the suggestion- RF energy translation, I knew it was BS. I know some electronics- some radio. It’s laughable. Heat sink might save juice- a molecular refrigerator, or a liquid nitrogen case.

  20. You have a stream of photons. You put something in front to interact with them (i.e. to “harvest” them), you have lesser amount coming out the other end en route to the base station. Then the power control kills off the idea completely. The base station estimates your uplink SIR, and sends the commands on the downlink, which your phone then uses to increase its transmission/uplink power. You just can’t win.

    All this points out that there is a wide spectrum of people out there, sitting in high places, making big decisions, influencing public opinion, yet they lack the holistic end-to-end view. Basically it’s negligence. It’s unethical.

  21. This is a typical case of not knowing the laws of physics and ignoring the zeroth law.
    Another one is the generator in the back that is powered by the wheels feeding the engine driving the front wheels.
    Or the energy making roads.

  22. The moral of the story is, the general public has a very very low education level, and that PT Barnum’s observation over 120 years ago stands true to this day.

    There is a sucker born every minute.

  23. This not the end of capitalism, it’s exactly the essence of capitalism. Capitalism is about convicing people with money to give you some of it (eventually making profit). The only difference is that before, to start something, you had to convince a few people with lots of money, while now you can try to convince many people with a little money. Turns out the people with little money are easier to convince than the people with lots of money. Go figure.

    1. > Aren’t most people behind HAD just writers and media people?

      Actually, no. Elliot wrote the book on AVR programming, Bil Herd is a recovering Commodore, Adam is at Honeywell, Hobson’s a MechE, Eric’s an EE, Anool founded Wyolum, Ethan’s software… If you put everybody at Hackaday in a room, we’ll make a rocket engine or some crazy FPGA shit. If you put everyone at Wired in a room, they can grow some amazing weed.

      I am literally the only person employed at Hackaday that has a background in media, and I reject most of my education in that, so I think I’m cool there.

        1. Well what would you like to see?

          We feature hardcore stuff, it’s just that the people who *can* do it usually have things like jobs and a finite amount of time. It simply doesn’t happen very often *at all*, so of course the truly hardcore stuff isn’t going to be featured as often.

          I’m all for featuring hardcore and RE stuff, but that’s way down the long tail.

      1. “If you put everybody at Hackaday in a room, we’ll make a rocket engine or some crazy FPGA shit.” Since I haven’t seen the rocket engine on HaD, Can I assume that you are not ever in the same room at the same time?

        1. I’d guess they send stuff in by email, like most journalists these days. If it wasn’t for all these idiots on the website distracting them with their nonsense, they’d be halfway to the moon by now.

    2. I’ve met a few of the HaD folks… and my impression is that it’s a bunch of engineers who have found a way to get paid for all the fun parts of engineering without any of the boring and/or shitty parts of being a real engineer, and get invited to all the cool parties to boot.

  24. Kickstarter is just as guilty as anyone in this; they have a financial interest in supporting the projects that are likely to raise huge amounts of money — and it doesn’t matter to Kickstarter if they are legitimate or not. Kickstarter should be put out of business for allowing this sort of fraud.

  25. Anyone else remember those “circuit boards” from the 90s that yous slip between the battery and cover? Just random copper traces on rhin flex plastic. Nation wide TV commercials, on the shelves of every cell phone accessory shop.. Everywhere. Total BS.
    People are goddamn stupid about engineering. It’s just a fact. If it’s not your area of experience you have no clue.

    What really chaps me is they using the name.
    Tesla has a hard enough time what with history books only giving a damn about that Edison asshole.

  26. RF power transmission, or “Hertzian radiation” (with Tesla’s own words), has nothing to do with Tesla’s cableless (using Earth) power transmission. Even using his name is such a STUPIDITY is highly disgusting and insulting to the ideas about electric power transfer and transformation that Tesla developed and experimentally verified.

  27. I’ve sent them this message:
    ‘I don’t understand the viability of your product, you say on the comments: “The maximum mW output of this device is 36mW for a typical duration of 56 milliseconds on the WiFi connection during active downloading. It is a pulse charge that repeats roughly every 120 milliseconds.”

    So, taking your claim there as fact and assuming that’s 36mW and taking the maximum continuous time you can do this as 8 hours (likely less with full WiFi load but I’m giving you a best chance here) on an iPhone 6 with a 1810mAh battery @ 3.3v (= 5973mWh).

    Your power output is 36mW if it were at 100% duty cycle. So if we calculate the actual power at the actual duty cycle = 36*(56/(56 + 120)) = an average rate of 11.4545…mW.

    Taking your power of 11.4545mW for 8 hours = 11.4545*8 = 91.636…mWh

    So, if somehow the phone lasted 8 hours putting out full WiFi power, by your numbers you would give back 91.636mWh (which, to me, still sounds too high but I’ll take your word for it). That as a percentage of battery power is 91.636/5973 = 1.534%

    You claim on your page that without the case when your battery would be 30% without the case with the case it would be 70%. I can’t see the phone’s battery lasting that long unless you’re doing nothing on your phone apart from having the screen off constantly sending data over WiFi anyway to be honest.

    Note the number would still be a 1.534% increase since battery percentage is the percentage of the whole, not the percentage of the remaining.

    I’m not even going in to whether that power output is even achievable without affecting the RSSI/reliability/speed of the connection, but I doubt it is even if you can pick that much power up. Phones do have built in power management to not send out more power than is required for reliable transmission.

    Please explain what I’ve done wrong here and at what angle I must place my head to make it work.’

    Will be interesting to see what they come back with…

  28. I’ve just read all the previous comments, along with the few math calculations… Before reading those my only thought was “maybe they are getting the energy from ambient signals, not the cell phone the case is wrapped around”. I guess after reading the math calcs I still wonder if that’s their strategy, even though the calcs seemed to show that the massive benefits would actually be very much less than the kickstarter is claiming. Can’t we all just ‘flag’ the kickstarter campaign to get it pulled off?

  29. It would be possible if you selectively absorbed the part of the signal that wasn’t being received. Like the stuff going in the other direction etc. That would be impressive. This isn’t that unfortunately…

    1. Phones need to transceive in every direction, they’re in communication with several cells at once, ready to hand over to the next one, seamlessly, if the signal to the current one drops. And of course they need to talk to several to determine which one is strongest. Although most of the data does go to one cell. So it might work if this gadget’s antenna could swivel as you operated the phone, assuming you knew which direction to swivel it in, and also could be removed during transactions with other cells, if you knew when that was. On a microsecond basis.

      And that’s assuming there’s a lot of energy wasted by the radio anyway. If it was enough of a deal they could put directional antennas on phones. But it’s not. Think how much on-time you used to get from older phones with 2-line LCDs and no features at all. Even with Nicad batteries with half the capacity.

      This thing only needs a motor to be a perpetual-motion machine.

  30. “This is the end of capitalism, folks. No longer do you need to innovate and make a better mouse trap. All you need to do is convince enough people that you’ve made a better mouse trap.”

    Same thing for capitalism…

  31. Well then Brian, by your reasoning, every-time someone turns on their radio receiver or TV receiver , the amount of power used by the transmitting station increases, Yes? So when the six o’clock news comes on and hundreds of thousand people turn on at approx the same time, the station fuse-box almost melts down. Doesn’t work that way Brian, it is an electromagnetic waveform radiating out into free space so the idea is entirely feasible IMHO, just an engineering problem. 2 cents.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.