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Funding for iFind Kickstarter Suspended

Unknown Lamer posted about 3 months ago | from the didn't-see-that-one-coming dept.

Wireless Networking 104

An anonymous reader writes As of approximately 9AM PDT, funding for the iFind project at Kickstarter, the one with the bluetooth tags that have no battery and that harvest energy from WiFi and other radio sources, has been suspended. No word yet on how this came about. Not an unexpected outcome since their claims of harvesting enough energy for a Bluetooth beacon from ambient wireless signals looked pretty far-fetched.

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pnysically impossible (1, Redundant)

swschrad (312009) | about 3 months ago | (#47327893)

so it's self-delusion or fraud. you would have to be three tower rungs below a broadcast antenna to harvest enough power, and you'd get very, very fried.

Re:pnysically impossible (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47328163)

You should look in the handle of your wheelie bin some time. For at least the last 30 years wheelie bins around the world have had RFID tags with unique serial numbers. This is all so that garbage collection companies can keep their drivers "honest" - trucks log what bins they pick up, where and when this happens, and automatically upload the logs to a computer when returning to the depot. Drivers found to be going off-route to empty bins for profit get shown the door. And surprise, surprise, none of these RFID tags have batteries in them. And yet you say, "OMFG it's impossible!"

Re: pnysically impossible (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47328237)

RFIDs are charged by a special signal before reading, like EZ Pass. They only pass a few bits of data which requires very little energy, unlike Bluetooth which passes much more energy.

None of these use ambient Wi-Fi energy.

Re:pnysically impossible (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 3 months ago | (#47328295)

RFID does not have the same power requirements Bluetooth does, the power requirements for Bluetooth are described in detail in the spec; it's not something you can get around. If nothing else, unlike RFID, Bluetooth does not have a totally unpowered "sleep" mode, that can be woken by the Bluetooth protocol itself. If your device is awake enough to receive any signal at all, it is drawing power. In fact, it's drawing very nearly the theoretical maximum you could harvest from ambient sources for the dimensions of the device they are describing... and then said device has to actually power up and send besides (not to mention the theoretical maximum is a good order of magnitude higher than what you'd see in real life usage).

There's a difference between "this concept is theoretically possible" (what you describe) and "this idea, as described and designed is workable in real life" (which is what the iFind people are, erroneously or fraudulently, arguing.

Re:pnysically impossible (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47328895)

RFID does not have the same power requirements Bluetooth does, the power requirements for Bluetooth are described in detail in the spec; it's not something you can get around.

Take a look at the power budgets for Bluetooth headsets - even for ten year-old Treo headsets the Bluetooth transceiver and uptime are not anywhere near the majority of the device's battery consumption. You are also assuming, of course, that the iFind devices need a *persistent* Bluetooth connection and lots of CPU smarts. For the application they're describing they don't. They can act more like periodic beacons, only needing enough power to connect to the host periodically (for example every 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 seconds, as power permits) plus a little bit to be able to receive a packet or two (to sound the beeper). This could be achieved with a dumb ASIC. Plus, who says they're powered by the host's Bluetooth signal? There's plenty of energy floating around from 50/60Hz mains and AM/FM radio signals that could be utiltized.

Re:pnysically impossible (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47329345)

This could be achieved with a dumb ASIC. Plus, who says they're powered by the host's Bluetooth signal?

They explicilty said they could be powered off of household WiFi and get 10 dBm from their little couple square centimeter tag... which would only be possible if you put the thing practically on top of a Wifi access point that was at full power all the time.

Re:pnysically impossible (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47330211)

Even ignoring where they get their power from, they claim [kickstarter.com] in 1 second rope mode it uses an average of 36 microamps of current, and can store enough energy to run 18 days without any charging source. That works out to 55 coulombs of charge... that seems like a lot of charge to store in something that is not a battery (and even if using a different voltage to store it, you don't gain much in terms of volume... either it is a 55 F super-capacitor at 1 V, or a 140 mF cap at 400 V, neither of which is as small and flat as their tag thing. That works out to about 15 mAh, which is getting kind of high even for a battery in that size (unless the tag thing is a lot thicker than it looks to me).

Re:pnysically impossible (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 3 months ago | (#47331883)

Batteries are 2800mAh. This would need 1/187 of a battery to make your numbers. The battery would have the round profile of a AA cell, but be 1/4 mm thick--half as thick as 0.5mm pencil lead--to provide 15mAh.

Re:pnysically impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47332301)

Battery capacity doesn't scale easily to very small size, so you can't just proportion the volume to something that small from a AA sized battery. That said, it possibly [fentbattery.com] because the demand for very thin batteries has companies producing them using less common battery chemistry, etc (although sometimes at expense of self-discharge rate or number of charge cycles). The previous post didn't say it was impossible, just that it is getting kind of high, because depending on what the actual dimensions are, you are still talking about something that takes up a vast majority of the space in the tag not leaving much room for an antenna and circuits. Plus the whole being advertised as "battery-free" which is a bit wonky if they mean "free of batteries you can replace."

Re:pnysically impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47332319)

But they specifically claim that the thing *DOESN'T HAVE A BATTERY*.

Re:pnysically impossible (1)

ttucker (2884057) | about 3 months ago | (#47328819)

Passive RFID tags are powered directly by a reader that generates a high intensity RF field, specifically for energizing the tag. This is more akin to a wireless battery charging specification, where the device must be placed in a very specific location, than the RFID device being magically charged by whatever EM radiation happens to be around.

Re:pnysically impossible (2)

naughtynaughty (1154069) | about 3 months ago | (#47329635)

I saw a car driving on the Interstate between Phoenix and Los Angeles. Therefore to claim that it is impossible to drive a car to the moon is ridiculous.

Re:pnysically impossible (1)

uninformedLuddite (1334899) | about 3 months ago | (#47337967)

This is an example of the slow and steady demise of /.

Re:pnysically impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47329589)

I recall Mythbusters did a show on free energy and perpetual motion machines. They debunked most of them, but a contraption based on a 100 foot wire antenna pulled a quantity of power out of the environment sufficient to power a digital watch. While it did provide a measurable power output, they (reasonably, I think) deemed it an impractical solution. In this application, I would imagine a Bluetooth 4.0 solution would have power requirements in the same order of magnitude as the watch, which would make this product completely unworkable.

http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/mythbusters/mythbusters-database/mythbusters-free-energy.htm

Re:pnysically impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47329789)

Reflective lcd screens can be below a mW of power for simple ones (I've seen e-reader sized ones use 2-4 mW), and the timer on a watch can be less than that. Bluetooth needs at least a couple mW of power to go several feet, 10s of mW for tens of m or more, plus more for the actual chip. You could end up with the watch using less than something that sends a 3 ms bluetooth blip every second.

Re:pnysically impossible (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 months ago | (#47330933)

The difference is that the LCD needs to be on all of the time. The Pebble does a little trick where it uses the accelerometer to detect when you've just turned the watch face up and turns the screen on then.

You could end up with the watch using less than something that sends a 3 ms bluetooth blip every second.

Even once a second may be more than you need. If the aim is to have something that communicates with a much more powerful device, then I'd imagine that every 10 seconds you'd turn on the passive receiver and do a tiny bit of signal processing to detect if you have anything that might be a bluetooth signal (the receiver is always online because it's part of your energy harvesting, but the DSP isn't). If you do, then you bring the transmitter up and send a ping. You're only using the 10mW of Bluetooth LE for a tiny period, once every 10s, if you've already detected that there's a high probability that someone is trying to talk to you.

Even then, the power requirements are not obviously below what you can get from energy harvesting. You need to have a timing source that lets you detect when the 10s quiet window ends, and the more accurate you make that the higher its power requirements are. I'd say it was probably possible, but definitely not easy...

Re:pnysically impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47331583)

The difference is that the LCD needs to be on all of the time. The Pebble does a little trick where it uses the accelerometer to detect when you've just turned the watch face up and turns the screen on then.

A reflective LCD in theory doesn't consume any current just requires a voltage to setup an electric field. In real life there is a bit of leakage current, but it is pretty small. There is also some power loss when changing state because of having to move a tiny bit of charge on or off the LCD screen. When I made the previous AC post, I didn't even know what the Pebble was, so that isn't relativite, as I was talking about a normal dum LCD watch. I have not seen that particular Mythbusters episode though, so I don't know which watch they used, but assumed "digitial watch" meant the regular kind.

Even once a second may be more than you need.

Every second is what they advertise as one of the function modes of their device. They explicilty discuss the 1 second mode briefly when talking about how much power it takes and how long it can run on stored power, etc. , although they list a 5s and 10s mode too., and an option to have an accelerometer on so it can react to shaking.

Re:pnysically impossible (1)

lucien86 (917502) | about 3 months ago | (#47339913)

Funny thing, those MEMs accelerometers and gyro's also use power. The core elements vibrate and the oscillations produce a feedback signal which is amplified through a special signal / op-amp.

Free Energy! (1)

zerosomething (1353609) | about 3 months ago | (#47327929)

WOOOOO! Spin spin sugar WOOOOOO

Re:Free Energy! (1)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 3 months ago | (#47328077)

Did you just quote The Sneaker Pimps? very impressive if so.

Re:Free Energy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47328659)

Free money. ($2 million dollars of it if I remember)

All you have to do is say something people really find interesting, even if it means the promises could never happen.

iFind Kickstarter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47327935)

by the curb where my bike was parked

Were are the folks who started it? (2)

Streetlight (1102081) | about 3 months ago | (#47327965)

Are these folks now in some country the US does not have an extradition treaty with?

Re:Were are the folks who started it? (1)

ShaunC (203807) | about 3 months ago | (#47328543)

Fleeing the country over half a million bucks, some of which was probably "pledged" through sock puppets using their own money? I rather doubt it.

Re:Were are the folks who started it? (4, Informative)

suutar (1860506) | about 3 months ago | (#47328767)

they didn't get the half million. Kickstarter shut it down before the transfers.

Re:Were are the folks who started it? (2)

stoploss (2842505) | about 3 months ago | (#47330523)

they didn't get the half million. Kickstarter shut it down before the transfers.

Discerning con artists prefer indiegogo for precisely that reason. Then again there are plenty of examples of scams on kickstarter as well.

Re:Were are the folks who started it? (1)

naughtynaughty (1154069) | about 3 months ago | (#47330237)

At home crying and wondering if it is too late to cancel their Tesla orders.

Re:Were are the folks who started it? (1)

jandrese (485) | about 3 months ago | (#47330625)

They didn't technically steal anything yet. Kickstarter doesn't release funds until the end of the campaign, so they've gotten zilch thus far. They might get hit by some false advertising fine or something, but I doubt they're going to see any jail time.

Seems plausible... (1)

Ichijo (607641) | about 3 months ago | (#47328023)

If you can harvest enough energy from radio waves to operate a radio receiver [wikipedia.org] , why couldn't you add in enough capacitors to drive an intermittent Bluetooth beacon?

Re:Seems plausible... (4, Informative)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about 3 months ago | (#47328185)

It's not any one thing, it's the culimination of nonsense.

They are going to market in 3 months, but there's not even a prototype to show, that's crazy if you've ever done hardware design work. They just need $500K, that's outrageously low for hardware, I know software startups which eat 10x that. Hardware eats a lot of money in test alone. Their claims are outside the range and specs for the technologies they work with. Not outrageously so, but ... enough that eyebrows have to be raised. Their "technical details" carefully avoid explaining why any of it is possible, and instead give intellectual symbolic links to why it might work and secret sauce.

The things that are really dubious are the "shake to find" feature, which seems to be magical at best given how bluetooth works and what their claims are.

Then people are background checking the CEO and while this may or may not be trustworthy, his alleged linked in pages does not give him the credentials he claims. He's allegedly got patents on cold fusion... Add it all up, and you have to lean on the side of scam. Maybe he's a misunderstood genius, but he's going to have to prove it.

Re:Seems plausible... (3, Funny)

sribe (304414) | about 3 months ago | (#47328259)

Maybe he's a misunderstood genius, but he's going to have to prove it.

Well, that's just a ridiculous suggestion. How the heck is he supposed to do that when no one else in the world is smart enough to understand his invention???

;-)

Re:Seems plausible... (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 3 months ago | (#47329547)

Most of what you said makes sense but I disagree with the choosing side of things. You've seen software startups eat through $5m funding? I've seen them started in parents basements. I would say the opposite. $500k is way way way too high a price to pay for R&D of their proposed hardware. They should be able to pull it off for 1/100th that given the feature list.

Or maybe they need the other $495k to change the laws of physics. That would make more sense.

Re:Seems plausible... (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 3 months ago | (#47329583)

disagree with the *costing*

damn autocorrect.

Re:Seems plausible... (2)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about 3 months ago | (#47329811)

You don't buy hardware from a factory a la carte. You commit to a production run, maybe 100k units, whatever entices the factory to give you time and absorb the headache of setting up the line. You make that money back as you sell, of course, but you have to make it.

And getting a factory set up to run 100k units is itself an issue, you normally have to do a low volume run to shake out the problems, maybe 1k units (usually on prototypes). That takes money, lots of airline trips, and you pay a premium on components (in their case, maybe some plastic and cheap pcb) for low volumes.

Hardware is expensive. Yes I know what you can do in your garage, I do that myself on far, far less. But when you start talking about mass producing goods you are also talking about hiring employees who don't work for free. 10 years ago we might assume a loaded headcount cost of $200k/engineer/year. It won't be easy to attract talent with imaginary stock options and promise of riches at this instant.

Re:Seems plausible... (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 3 months ago | (#47330305)

As someone who has designed and ordered small runs (20 units) of electronics complete with factory assembly soldering and casing, I can tell you no.

Hardware is expensive in a giant company. If you're making a CD player for Sony, with a team of engineers, a bit of R&D, where you have 1 shot to make the product correct and are forced to order 100k units to meet economy of scale requirements, then yes sure, but you're also not going to be financing this with Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is about kick-starting your business, not mass producing. If you are running a kickstart campaign with the aim of a large production run first go then you should really not be in the business, and this is something that will self correct itself anyway.

There are MANY successful kickstarted projects that have taken off with very modest funding requirements. HR? Are you joking? If you have a HR team with hiring requirements then you shouldn't be on kickstarter. If on the other hand you're talking about paying a contractor a one off fee for design then yes, that would be appropriate.

Sorry whichever way you try and spin it, for what they are looking at producing I would instantly say asking for $500k funding is so high that alone should be a clear indication of potential fraudulent intentions.

Re:Seems plausible... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47330391)

While I agree it is probably a scam and the price is probably a bit high regardless, I do think a project of this nature would still be a lot more expensive than small scale electronic hobbyist kickstarter. They aren't going to be making a couple dozen, considering it is the type of device a person may want more than one of easily. Just from the backer rewards, they are looking at 35k units. I'm not sure what retail price they were expecting to sell them at, but even at a couple dollars a unit, this isn't going to be a couple tens of thousands of dollars type of project, unless they are expected to give units to the backers at cost. Even then, they could be using an off the shelf bluetooth chip at a couple dollars a unit at multi-thousand unit pricing and custom cases. Then if you try to make sense of their actual claims, you are talking about possibly custom parts, really small scales which might make off the shelf parts more difficult to find, or if going with custom parts they would have to deal with Bluetooth certification, etc. You would still be looking at least a couple hundred thousand dollars.

Re:Seems plausible... (2)

Alioth (221270) | about 3 months ago | (#47330893)

You can buy hardware from a factory a la carte. I've done it. There are quite a few companies doing prototyping services where you can do this for easily affordable sums of money.

I've had a small run (100 units) of an ethernet board I designed made in a factory. The board was a 100mm x 60mm 4 layer PCB. I supplied the gerbers and a BOM and a month later I had 100 boards back (I did put on the through hole parts myself). It cost me a couple of grand to do, they could do it cheaper than I could if I had ordered the parts off Farnell and soldered them onto the boards myself. Hardware is much easier to do today on a shoestring budget than it was even 5 years ago.

Now it's different if you're needing an ASIC - then you're looking into spending a couple of million. But off the shelf BTLE SoCs already exist.

The thing I find implausible about this Kickstarter is that they are attempting to break the laws of physics, not that you can't make a pretty decent sized prototype run on the funding they had.

Re:Seems plausible... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 months ago | (#47330951)

I don't think they could fit within their power budget with an off-the-shelf BTLE SoC. They may find a DSP that can do some processing on the incoming signals to determine whether it's worth powering the BTLE part within the power budget, but it's unlikely - they'd want something very specialised. ASICs of the complexity that they need can be quite cheap, but you'd still be pushing it to get it done in $500K. You could probably build a working prototype for that, but getting it into production would need a bit more.

Re:Seems plausible... (1)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about 3 months ago | (#47335689)

I understand that, I order proto PCBs all the time and hand assemble. I speculate their fabricated product would require no components at all, or perhaps a few capacitors. The markup is high for small runs, but it's still cheap for a few units. I wouldn't bother making a kickstarter for that. Their entire design can be proofed out almost for free as the parent said. There is no excuse for them NOT to have done this before going on the web.

But from proto to product is a long road, and to create a viable business you can't sell 10s of units from your garage with no warranty, customer support, instruction manuals, enclosures (that do not degrade performance in the bands of interest, which I have learned is not a given even with plastic), etc. You also have to have a plan to volume manufacture. Even if it's to buy 100s of protos, sell at a loss and have the kid down the street package and ship. It costs money, it requires thought. Operating like that, if it's a good product you'll be demolished the second some cheap taiwanese crapshop sees your kickstarter and copies your design faster than you can scream "patent infringement". Even if they can't work around your patent, the damage will have been done.

So given that a proto is so cheap as to require giving up a few nights out on the town, and the next step is to develop a product and spend money, what exactly is kickstarter funding? If it's the latter I still say $500k is too cheap, or their business strategy too naive. I suppose with kickstarter I don't have to care about that, but it also suggests bullshit.

Re:Seems plausible... (1)

david_thornley (598059) | about 3 months ago | (#47337065)

You can get, say, injection molded parts fairly cheaply and quickly, provided you're willing to work with the company and don't mind a high cost per part (reasonable for prototyping and limited production runs, not so much for large production runs).

Re:Seems plausible... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47340317)

" They just need $500K, that's outrageously low for hardware,"

No, no, that's whot the GOT.
What they ASKED was a mere $25k ...

Re:Seems plausible... (3, Informative)

dainichi (1181931) | about 3 months ago | (#47328243)

The concept is plausible. Just not under the conditions that they were supposedly going to operate under.
Rather than try to reinvent the wheel, I invite you to read this thorough explanation of why *the iFInd* won't work
https://docs.google.com/docume... [google.com]

Re:Seems plausible... (1)

CaptainLard (1902452) | about 3 months ago | (#47328337)

Sure, you can do pretty much anything if you're flexible with the duty cycle (and eliminate parasitics). How many months in between each ping would be acceptable?

Apple has a required "ping" rate (1)

sirwired (27582) | about 3 months ago | (#47328429)

Yes, I suppose you could drive an intermittent Bluetooth beacon, but I read somewhere else that Apple requires check-ins every three seconds.

Re:Apple has a required "ping" rate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47329427)

I read somewhere that you have no clue what the hell you're talking about. (okay, I read it here.)

Re:Seems plausible... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47329379)

Someone in the previous Slashdot story's comments did the math that the power required to operate run a low power bluetooth communication chip would be equivalent to a crystal radio producing 140 dB audio signal into your ear.

Re:Seems plausible... (1)

Alioth (221270) | about 3 months ago | (#47330869)

They say their device requires an average of 36 microamps. Even if the chip they use only runs on 1 volt, that would be 36 microwatts (it's going to be more than that, I expect their chip is more like 1.8v). They claim the tag will just run on the typical ambient signal from things like WiFi access points. Their antenna at most is going to be half an inch on each side, and the most they can possibly harvest will be less than 1 microwatt even with 100% efficiency.

The antenna won't be much use for getting power off broadcast radio signals. It's far too tiny. Don't forget a crystal set requires not only a very long antenna suitable for the AM radio band, but a good connection to ground, too, so that it can make enough current to run the crystal radio. This thing doesn't have a ground connection.

Far-fetched? (0)

pla (258480) | about 3 months ago | (#47328027)

First, in the interests of full disclosure, I do consider this a likely scam.

That said, I don't understand why so many people consider it physically impossible - Passive RFID works in very much the same way as what this Kickstarter describes. An RF pulse gives it just enough juice to do a miniscule amount of processing (looking up a stored number), then broadcast it back out to the world. Yes, capturing background RF would take some doing, but I don't know that I'd call it all that far outside the realm of plausibility.

For comparison, an RFID reader has the same FCC-imposed limits as WiFi, an EIRP of 4W (or put another way, a 1W transmitter with a typical 6dBi antenna).

Suspicious in the absence of a working prototype? Absolutely! Impossible? Not even close.

Re:Far-fetched? (1)

Guy From V (1453391) | about 3 months ago | (#47328087)

I'm pretty sure it's based more on people being able to smell bullshit...with a good dose of far-fetched added.

Re: Far-fetched? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47328167)

Actually an EM field induces current in the tag's magnetic loop, which in turn powers the chip so it can blip its ID as an RF pulse.

Re:Far-fetched? (3, Informative)

Firethorn (177587) | about 3 months ago | (#47328187)

For comparison, an RFID reader has the same FCC-imposed limits as WiFi, an EIRP of 4W (or put another way, a 1W transmitter with a typical 6dBi antenna).

RFID readers are also generally bigger than a cell phone, utilize a protocol developed specifically for low power(Bluetooth is incredibly complex and high-powered in comparison, actually doing handshakes and stuff), don't do any more than transmit a number(essentially), and work at ranges a whole lot less than 200 meters.

If we could build a wireless power receiver that doesn't need a specific power transmitter that can transmit powerfully enough to be heard at a couple hundred meters into something the size of a dime ALL small consumer devices would be looking to use it. Bye-bye chargers for the most part would only be the first step.

Re:Far-fetched? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 3 months ago | (#47328607)

To be fair Bluetooth Low Energy cuts out most of the protocol stuff. Obviously the range claims and power budget are still nonsense, but BTLE has gone a long way towards making low power sensor type applications possible.

Re:Far-fetched? (1)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | about 3 months ago | (#47328197)

If I read it right, they're claiming that their devices can collect more energy than exists. They're claiming to collect 10 units of energy from an array of devices that put out one unit of energy. (Obviously, I'm dumbening it down a lot.)

Reality doesn't work that way.

Re:Far-fetched? (4, Informative)

KreAture (105311) | about 3 months ago | (#47328223)

The problem is it's not RFID. They state it is bluetooth. Further more they claim functionality not even possible/correct with Rope etc. BTLE uses around 0.15 mW or 150 W according to a overview by DigiKey and according to Powercast and their P2110 Powerharvester you can get a few 10's of microwatts from a 3W transmitter at around 40 feet. This tells me it's not fesible.

Re:Far-fetched? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47328537)

not exactly. if you read their updates page, the hoax is a very elaborate one.

Most interesting are the testing claims (which are an image, instead of text/pdf, etc).
https://s3.amazonaws.com/ksr/assets/002/155/058/3e57d6b3e3dbbb3657e3d075b98cc02f_large.png?1402972897

some of the details (claims) are quite interesting.

Re:Far-fetched? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47329447)

Their other technical note mentioned it could operate in rope mode for 18 days straight on a single charge using the same internal storage they talk there. Assuming a really low power bluetooth chip using 10 mW of power during transmit for the minimum 3 ms bluetooth blip (which wouldn't get the 200 ft range with they are suggesting...), you would need a ~0.5 mF, 400 V capacitor to store that energy which are typically on the size order of ~4 cm cube (or alternatively a ~40 F, 2 V supercap which is about the same size).

Re:Far-fetched? (1)

dainichi (1181931) | about 3 months ago | (#47328265)

Just implausible *under the conditions stated for the product* (size, materials,available technology)

Re:Far-fetched? (2)

CaptainLard (1902452) | about 3 months ago | (#47328305)

Impossible is generally a strong word that should be avoided but there are many huge fundamental differences between BT and RFID that make using it as a baseline for their claims...well....impossible.

RFID tags don't broadcast in the traditional sense. They basically short out their antenna. When the antenna is active it absorbs some incident energy from the reader, when its shorted it reflects it. The reader can pick up the difference. An RFID reader is also highly directional compared to a wifi router or BT dongle. And instead of sending a message with a couple of bits you have all of the BT overhead to deal with that has to go out through a real transceiver. Even low power BT chips need 10's of mW whereas RFID is in the low uW range.

Re:Far-fetched? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 3 months ago | (#47328327)

As other people have stated, Bluetooth is not RFID, the power requirements are different by a couple orders of magnitude (don't quote me, lets just say they're significantly different). Passive RFID do not require power to listen for an incoming signal, Bluetooth does. RFID has an extremely limited range, making it's use as a "finder" pretty much worthless. Bluetooth sends and receives many times more data at many times higher speed.

If phones had active RFID scanners or even Zigbee hardware, it might be possible to make something like this work, with Bluetooth it's physically impossible.

Re:Far-fetched? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47328467)

Quite simply, power density. The typical background radio noise is measured in nanowatts per square inch. Bluetooth requires milliwatts. This creates a factor of at least 1000x more power required than is available assuming 100% efficient gathering. And you aren't going to get that. You could harvest power in the manner, but even assuming 100% efficiency, you're talking about a device the size of a house.

Re:Far-fetched? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47328929)

That isn't really how RFID works.

A RFID tag uses an antenna to scavenge the RF emitted by the RFID "reader"
Once the tag is "charged" it starts toggling the antenna between connected (i.e. charging) and disconnected. This causes the antenna to either absorb or reflect the energy it collects, and the reader detects that.

Re:Far-fetched? (1)

ttucker (2884057) | about 3 months ago | (#47328971)

Nobody is debating whether current can be induced by a changing magnetic field.... It takes more than just doing to invalidate the first law of thermodynamics.

Mobile wifi is limited to 1w eirp (250mw with 6dbi antenna gain), not 4. In practice the transmitters are less powerful than the limit. Furthermore, they are not constantly transmitting at full power.

Re:Far-fetched? (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 3 months ago | (#47329975)

It's physically impossible because the power they need is a couple orders of magnitude larger than the power they're going to get. It's as simple as that. Passive RFID works because the power it needs is on par with available power. Again, it's just that simple.

So, as you might imagine, the devil is in the details. What they have is not passive RFID.

Re:Far-fetched? (1)

AC-x (735297) | about 3 months ago | (#47331471)

Passive RFID works in very much the same way as what this Kickstarter describes. An RF pulse gives it just enough juice to do a miniscule amount of processing (looking up a stored number), then broadcast it back out to the world. Yes, capturing background RF would take some doing, but I don't know that I'd call it all that far outside the realm of plausibility.

The difference is distance; RFID only works with the reader very close to the tag (or with a large, directional antenna). Remember that RF strength decreases by the square of the distance (inverse-square law) and even just a few cm away from the reader RFID tags stop working. These iFind tags would be receiving even less energy than that, and if you can't power an RFID tag with that you're not going to be able to power an active Bluetooth device either.

Slashdot Effect (3, Informative)

turp182 (1020263) | about 3 months ago | (#47328089)

Slashdot was mentioned prominently in the comments for the project once it hit the front page.

I followed the posts that day (Tuesday?) and comments were much more lively than before that point.

Re:Slashdot Effect (1)

BillX (307153) | about 3 months ago | (#47330169)

Hackaday had a similar discussion [hackaday.com] just over a month ago. The consensus there seems to be likewise that it is probably a scam. (Or *extremely* optimistic kid who has seen a few of the technologies involved work on paper. But more likely a scam.)

An obvious pseudoscientific scam (4, Interesting)

timholman (71886) | about 3 months ago | (#47328347)

The iFind project stunk of a pseudoscientific scam from the outset. Ignoring WeTag's laughable claims of the iFind being able to harvest any usable amount of energy from a device that small (RF harvesting circuits either need big antennas or to have RF energy beamed right at them), consider the biography of the so-called "Dr. Paul McArthur":

Currently I am working out of Plano, TX. I have been involved in this industry since 1984. After I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Electronics and Microprocessor Design, I continued my education and obtained my two graduate degrees while I was also working full time as a senior RF design engineer in MRI, at the ripe old age of 28. My Ph.D. also included bipolar IC design at that point, but was more system level, concentrating on RF interactions with the body from consumer product sources. My other degree was medical.

A bachelor of science degree in "Electronics and Microprocessor Design"? That's like earning a degree in "Computer Programming and Windows Apps". Pseudoscientists love to claim academic credentials, but always seem to screw up the details, because they want their credentials to sound as impressive as possible. And on the flip side, they'll never tell you where their degrees supposedly came from.

Then there's the matter of the Ph.D. and the M.D. degrees, both earned by the age of 28 while he was working full-time as an RF design engineer. Really? So did he start when he was 12 years old? And I guess he never slept? And of course you could ask the obvious questions, such as:

(1) "Dr. McArthur, what schools did you earn your graduate degrees at? And what years did you earn them?"
(2) "Dr. McArthur, can you point us to the references for the journal articles that you published as part of your Ph.D. degree?"

Not that you would ever get an answer, because "Dr. McArthur" is a fake. He was clever enough to pick a name that was less obvious than "John Smith", but still essentially impossible to track down using web searches.

If you look into "free energy" scams, you'll find people like "Dr. McArthur" everywhere. Some of them buy fake degrees from diploma mills, and others just make up their educational credentials wholesale. If you ever find yourself dealing with someone who touts his credentials but won't give you a straight answer where and when he got them, then you can be certain you're dealing with a fraud or a pseudoscientist.

Re:An obvious pseudoscientific scam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47328655)

My Google-fu yielded only this: Paul McArthur's patent on a similar device [utah.edu] , which makes it slightly more plausible that such a person at least exists. Maybe U of Utah knows more?

Re:An obvious pseudoscientific scam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47328733)

I don't know where YOU live, but under the study-encouragement program of Finland you'll lose your student loan and unemployment benefits if you haven't bagged your second doctorate by your 22nd year under the sun (Years spent under the moon not counted) though you can do so learning on the job full-time at a nuclear reactor or something, so if anything he sounds like a lazy bum.

Well, in all fairness... (1)

sirwired (27582) | about 3 months ago | (#47331677)

If you do some Googling for a Paul McArthur locator patent, you get two patents. That doesn't say he exist, but if he doesn't, somebody's gone to an awful lot of trouble to pretend he does, as one of these patents were filed 12 years ago (not Bluetooth at the time, obviously.)

Re:Well, in all fairness... (1)

timholman (71886) | about 3 months ago | (#47332553)

If you do some Googling for a Paul McArthur locator patent, you get two patents. That doesn't say he exist, but if he doesn't, somebody's gone to an awful lot of trouble to pretend he does, as one of these patents were filed 12 years ago (not Bluetooth at the time, obviously.)

Yes, that could be the same Paul McArthur. I also notice he is last on the list of inventors, which probably indicates he had the least contribution. But with a name like "Paul McArthur", who can be sure?

So maybe his name really is Paul McArthur ... or maybe not. But in any case, "Dr. Paul McArthur", the man with the B.S. in "Electronics and Microprocessor Design", the man who earned a Ph.D. and M.D. by the age of 28 while working full-time as an RF design engineer, yet has no presence on the web and don't bother to list the details that would allow anyone to verify his expertise ... that man is definitely a fake.

It happened because... (0)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 3 months ago | (#47328817)

someone forgot to slap an iFind tag on the patent application they were about to file.

The obvious solution... (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 3 months ago | (#47328973)

Build an RFID reader into your iphone bumper case. That way you won't lose it and the RFID reader can read RFID tags without requiring the RFID tags to have power.

Yes, they were talking about bluetooth which is stupid. But this seems entirely plausible if you use RFID instead.

Re:The obvious solution... (1)

AC-x (735297) | about 3 months ago | (#47331503)

RFID? As long as your tags are no more than a few mm away from your phone sure that would work :)

Re:The obvious solution... (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 3 months ago | (#47338097)

I thought they'd work at longer ranges then that... weren't people worried about RFID tags being read from feet away? I thought there was tech that could do that.

Kickstarter email (4, Informative)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 3 months ago | (#47329121)

Here's what has been sent to backers in email from Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/yuansong84/ifind-the-worlds-first-battery-free-item-locating/comments?cursor=7108319#comment-7108318). I haven't found any additional information from Kickstarter.

Hello,
This is a message from Kickstarter’s Trust & Safety team. We’re writing to notify you that the iFind - The World's First Battery-Free Item Locating Tag project has been suspended, and your $1.00 USD pledge has been canceled. A review of the project uncovered evidence of one or more violations of Kickstarter's rules, which include:
  A related party posing as an independent, supportive party in project comments or elsewhere
  Misrepresenting support by pledging to your own project
  Misrepresenting or failing to disclose relevant facts about the project or its creator
  Providing inaccurate or incomplete user information to Kickstarter or one of our partners
Accordingly, all funding has been stopped and backers will not be charged for their pledges. No further action is required on your part.
We take the integrity of the Kickstarter system very seriously. We only suspend projects when we find strong evidence that they are misrepresenting themselves or otherwise violating the letter or spirit of Kickstarter's rules. As a policy, we do not offer comment on project suspensions beyond what is stated in this message.
Regards,
Kickstarter Trust & Safety
Rules
Community Guidelines
Terms of Use

Re:Kickstarter email (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47329407)

Oh wow. So it seems those who said "they probably seeded it from their own pocket to get the ball rolling" in the previous article on iFind guessed right.

I expected something like simply failing requirements to show prototype and all, but if it's true, they're not even delusional, just plain old scammers.

Re:Kickstarter email (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47329831)

Im not sure this supposed Kickstarter email is legit, this sentence started the alarm bells: " We’re writing to notify you that.."

Unless Kickstarter wrote the words on paper and then scanned and emailed it to the backers, there is no way they were "writing" to notify the backers. Its blatantly obvious that they were typing.

It just doesnt add up, the best conclusion is that the OP just made that "email" up.

Re:Kickstarter email (1)

Kielistic (1273232) | about 3 months ago | (#47332171)

Write can be used as a synonym for compose. People "write an email" all the time. How many people that write books do you think do so with a pen?

Re:Kickstarter email (1)

Arethereanyleft (442474) | about 3 months ago | (#47332643)

Seriously?

I don't think the device itself would be legal. (3, Informative)

Sique (173459) | about 3 months ago | (#47329213)

As far as I know, the device (if it actually could work) would be illegal in most of Europe. Charging a device with the EM waves sent by other devices is considered energy theft and thus forbidden. In the 1960ies, devices charged by radiowaves from a nearby radio tower were a constant theme in the electronic magazines, but later, this was forbidden, as it actually forces the radio tower to increase the emitted amount of energy to compensate for the loss due to the charging device.

Re:I don't think the device itself would be legal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47329515)

Unless you about half a wavelength or closer to the radio tower (~100 m for shortwave), they won't notice any change in power drain with you absorbing the radiowaves. All that could happen is either you are absorbing radio waves that could have gone to someone else (which is not likely except for your neighbors unless your device is high up on a hill or sticking out of your roof by quite a bit), or it is doing a crappy job of coupling to the field and reflecting a bunch of the power near by. In the latter case, if they got complaints of bad reception and their license allowed it, they could consider increasing the power.

Re:I don't think the device itself would be legal. (2)

naughtynaughty (1154069) | about 3 months ago | (#47329667)

If "stealing" 10 uW of power is theft we should at least compute the value of that theft. 10uW for one year is 0.09Wh and at 20 cents/kWh that is approximately 2 thousandths of a penny. That's theft about as much as me stealing an apple by sniffing a few molecules of it at the grocery store.

Re:I don't think the device itself would be legal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47330017)

I don't think the actual power itself is the theft. It's the higher power equipment and licensing for higher power transmitters and the lower reach of the transmitter that's the problem. If just one person does it. Who cares. If hundreds of thousands do it, it's a significant thing. That being said, I would enjoy a link to one of those articles, I find it rather hard to believe you would get significant gain from leeching off of transmitters unless you were extremely close.

Re:I don't think the device itself would be legal. (1)

naughtynaughty (1154069) | about 3 months ago | (#47330249)

So if hundreds of thousands of people do it then it is a problem? Let's say 1 million people do it 1 million times 10 uW = 10W No, 10W siphoned off across 1 million homes is not significant at all. The "lower reach" impact of one of these is restricted to a transmitter within a few meters of the device and the impact is, as I already showed, minuscule to the point of being immeasurable. It's not sucking power from the transmitter, it is capturing power ALREADY TRANSMITTED and virtually all of that transmitted power never makes it to an antenna of any kind in the first place.

Re:I don't think the device itself would be legal. (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 3 months ago | (#47330331)

Based on RIAA accounting methods you should expect to be penalised in the order of $2000 for your heinous crimes.

Re:I don't think the device itself would be legal. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47330147)

No, and you're a fucking idiot.

If that were the case, hills, grass, trees, water towers, lakes, rivers and streams would all be illegal, as would painting your house in carbon-black or TiO paint, chain-link fences, or ever turning any radio receiver off. Or tuning a radio receiver for that matter.

A radio antenna attached to a tuner absorbs the same amount of energy as an energy harvester, unsurprisingly, since they are effectively the same thing except a harvester lacks a resonant filter.

What you just said is as stupid as saying solar panels are forbidden because they make the world dark by absorbing solar radiation, or spraying vinegar destroys chemtrails.

Yes, you are as fucking stupid as the people who spray vinegar on their back lawn to "kill" chemtrails.

How about that?

Re:I don't think the device itself would be legal. (1)

Sique (173459) | about 3 months ago | (#47331295)

You are a fucking idiot too. The relevant chapter in German law for instance is Chapter 248c StGB.

I know an antenna takes the same amount of power than an harvester. But an antenna is (according to German law) "a conductor for the rightful withdrawal of electrical energy", as the intention of the emitter was that the energy is going to an antenna. And yes, I know that any conducting material will "harvest" electrical energy from radiowaves (and mostly turn it into heat). But that's irrelevant for the law, as those aren't put there to withdraw the energy.

Re:I don't think the device itself would be legal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47331679)

Chapter 248c is theft of electricy by attaching a wire to an electrical service, and has nothing to do with RF pick-up, especially from radio stations. It is to stop hooking up their own wires to the electrical grid and getting unmetered power, something that is a big problem in some other countries.

Wer einer elektrischen Anlage oder Einrichtung fremde elektrische Energie mittels eines Leiters entzieht, der zur ordnungsmäßigen Entnahme von Energie aus der Anlage oder Einrichtung nicht bestimmt ist, wird, wenn er die Handlung in der Absicht begeht, die elektrische Energie sich oder einem Dritten rechtswidrig zuzueignen, mit Freiheitsstrafe bis zu fünf Jahren oder mit Geldstrafe bestraft.

Re:I don't think the device itself would be legal. (1)

MrL0G1C (867445) | about 3 months ago | (#47331281)

Charging a device with the EM waves sent by other devices is considered energy theft and thus forbidden.

That is absurd from a scientific standpoint. I live in Europe and have never heard of such a law.

Radio waves travel exactly the same as light, they are both EM waves/photons [wikipedia.org] . It is no more possible to steal Radio waves than it is to steal light from a street light.

Please state your source.

Re:I don't think the device itself would be legal. (1)

MrL0G1C (867445) | about 3 months ago | (#47331289)

PS, this would make Solar panels on a roof illegal if they collected street light at night.

Re:I don't think the device itself would be legal. (1)

AC-x (735297) | about 3 months ago | (#47331525)

That's not true, unless you're talking about building a large receiver right next to their transmitter and physically blocking the signal.

wow! (1)

ipstas (3573381) | about 3 months ago | (#47329461)

OK, I understand all those people who pledged had C on physics. But why the hell Kickstarter that claims they are checking incoming projects allowed it?

Re:wow! (1)

citizenr (871508) | about 3 months ago | (#47330667)

Kickstarter doesnt claim that, and in fact recently loosened their entry criteria to be more competitive with IGG. IGG on the other hand deleted part of their TOS that claimed they were somewhat responsible for scams.

Re:wow! (1)

Arethereanyleft (442474) | about 3 months ago | (#47332677)

Kickstarter collects money, takes a cut, and sends it on. The only reason they check projects is to make sure they aren't wasting resources on projects that won't make them money. Once they've sent the money to the project creator, they no longer care what happens. It doesn't matter if the project is completed or shipped. Backing a Kickstarter project is a gamble. It's generally a pretty good gamble, but there are still scams and people who are way more enthusiastic than competent. After a couple of years backing projects, I came to the conclusion that I was better off lettering other people gamble on projects. I'll wait until they actually exist as commercial products.

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