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Engineers made a battery-free radio the size of an ant

This is the promise of the near future: all of your gadgets — from your smartphone to your fridge — will be able to talk to each other, wirelessly communicating whether you’re around or not. We’re almost there, but a new device from Stanford and University of California, Berkeley, professors may speed things along. Engineers from the schools have designed a radio the size of an ant.

The tiny chips, which are powered by harvesting radio signals and don’t require external power, are small enough to fit on gadgets in your home, but still powerful enough to send and receive transmissions. The hope, according to the creators, is for device-makers to start using the chips in gadgets for the Internet of Things. Add one of the chips to a lightbulb, and make your stuff a little a smarter — able to communicate with you and all the electronics around you.

There are, of course, already wireless devices that do that. This invention hopes to differentiate itself by being cheap — it only costs a few cents to produce — and by being small enough to go anywhere. Will that work? Check back in the near future.