Many people will have banged a battery-powered TV remote on the brink of dying against a table hoping to revive it. But there may now be a more elegant approach.
Samsung, the South Korean electronics company, has decided to do away with replaceable batteries altogether and has created a remote control that is powered through radio waves and solar energy.
The device, made in part from recycled plastic, can charge itself by collecting radio waves from WiFi routers in a house — up to 40 metres away — and convert this into energy, in what is known as RF (radio frequency) harvesting.
A modern household is generally constantly surrounded by energy in the form of electromagnetic waves, from the likes of WiFi, GPS, 4G and 5G, and Bluetooth. Devices with receiving antennas can wirelessly harvest these radio frequencies and convert the energy from them into an alternating current, before a tool called a rectifier converts this into a direct current.
While researchers have investigated the possibilities of RF harvesting for all sorts of gadgets around the home, they have noted it can only ever generate a very small amount of energy. This makes it ideal for a device such as a TV remote but less promising for a larger item such as a mobile phone.
The new Samsung gadget, called Eco Remote, is being unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show, hosted each January in Las Vegas. The remote is an update from a solar-powered version Samsung released during the electronics show last year, which can use a home’s indoor lights for power. The remote can also be charged with a USB-C charger.
“Whether it’s a bright and sunny day or the middle of the night, the battery stays fully charged by collecting routers’ radio waves and converting them to energy,” Samsung said.
The remote control is part of Samsung’s Going Green scheme for its TV business. The company claims that the remote will help to prevent waste from about 99 million batteries over seven years.
Alongside Samsung products, the electronics show, which starts tomorrow, also includes a voice-controlled bathtub from Kohler, the US maker of bathroom products.
The PerfectFill $2,700 bathtub is linked to a household’s digital voice assistant such as Amazon’s Alexa and can start running with a simple voice command from wherever the person is in the house. PerfectFill comes with a drain kit and digital valve that work together to draw the bath to a person’s preferred temperature and depth.
Kohler raised eyebrows at the electronics show in 2019 when it unveiled an Alexa-controlled lavatory. The Numi 2.0 intelligent toilet came with in-built speakers and multi- coloured ambient lighting settings, meaning a person’s lavatory could act as their own DJ, with the owner simply having to say “Alexa, play the Rolling Stones” while sitting on the loo. The cost was $7,000 (£5,175).
Kohler is also debuting a kitchen tap that is suspended from the ceiling. It is called the “Purist Suspend” and can also be controlled by voice in order to turn on and off or adjust the temperature. It is operated via a small waterproof, battery-operated Bluetooth device that sits by the sink.