Powercast and Microchip fire up interest at a distance with wireless power development kit

Sean Hollister
S. Hollister|10.27.10

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Powercast and Microchip fire up interest at a distance with wireless power development kit
We're sure if you asked Powercast nicely it'd tell you a whale of a tale, about how the "more than 100 companies" who allegedly signed up to develop products that seemingly pull energy from the ether materialized into this light-up Christmas tree. Still, we'd be happy to forgive and forget if meaningful products emerged instead, and that's why we're moderately happy the company's announced a nice big development kit. $1,250 buys your firm or deep-pocketed hobbyist the spread pictured above, with a wireless transmitter to throw three watts and a pair of receiver boards to catch them from over 40 feet away, plus a low-power development board from Microchip equipped with that company's proprietary short-range wireless protocols and ZigBee functionality. We can't wait to see what people build, but we won't be snapping one up ourselves -- we're still holding out for the firm to go open-source and build an Arduino version. PR after the break.
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Microchip and Powercast Debut World's First RF Energy Harvesting Kit That Enables Battery-Free, Perpetually Powered Wireless Applications

Combination of Powercast's RF Energy Harvesting System and Microchip's eXtreme Low Power PIC® Microcontrollers Eliminates Batteries in a Wide Range of Applications

CHANDLER, Ariz.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Microchip Technology Inc. [NASDAQ: MCHP], a leading provider of microcontroller, analog and Flash-IP solutions, and Powercast Corporation, a leader in RF-based wireless power and energy harvesting technology, today announced the Lifetime Power® Energy Harvesting Development Kit for Wireless Sensors featuring PIC® microcontrollers with eXtreme Low Power (XLP) Technology. This kit, composed of a 3-watt Powercaster™ transmitter as the power source, two P2110 Powerharvester® receiver evaluation boards, two custom-designed wireless sensor boards, the XLP 16-bit Development Board pre-loaded with jointly developed application software, an IEEE 802.15.4 transceiver and other accessories, makes it easy to demonstrate and develop smart-energy, wireless-sensor applications that are reliably and perpetually powered by radio waves-eliminating the need for a battery. The included transmitter can wirelessly power sensor devices from more than 40 feet away.

The main challenges for the designers of wireless sensor applications fall into the categories of power, location and wireless communication. Combining Powercast's RF transmitter and receiver energy-harvesting system, which broadcasts and converts RF energy into DC power, with Microchip's XLP PIC microcontrollers, which provide the industry's lowest power consumption in active and sleep modes, solves all three of these design challenges.


Powercast's RF energy harvesting system provides predictable and reliable power, using broadcasted RF energy for wire- and battery-free operation, or to wirelessly charge battery-based systems. In the Lifetime Power kit, the Powercaster transmitter broadcasts RF energy to the Powerharvester receiver, which can be embedded into an OEM's micro-power device. The receiver then converts the RF energy and presents it as a regulated power supply to Microchip's PIC24F microcontroller. The recently announced Powercast transmitter included in the kit is approved by the FCC (Part 15) and Industry Canada.


Using broadcasted RF energy as the application's sole power source allows for untethered and battery-free operation in hazardous or inaccessible locations, which would otherwise require labor-intensive or potentially dangerous battery maintenance. Additionally, broadcasted RF energy is controllable (can be scheduled, continuous or on-demand) and works in locations where other potentially intermittent energy-harvesting sources (e.g., solar, vibration and heat) make them unreliable.

Wireless Communication

Microchip's configurable MiWi™ and MiWi P2P stacks are efficient and save power by enabling only the most essential wireless communication features. In addition to these proprietary Microchip protocols, the kit's included MRF24J40 IEEE 802.15.4 transceiver also supports Microchip's ZigBee stacks. From a functional standpoint, Microchip's RF transceiver allows for continual readings of sensor data, portability and much easier installation than wired communication provides.

In addition to solving these three major challenges, the Lifetime Power kit provides modular development with Microchip's included XLP 16-bit Development Board. This flexible platform allows customization for developing applications, and enables faster evaluation, prototyping and time to market.

Availability and Pricing

The Lifetime Power Energy Harvesting Development Kit for Wireless Sensors is available today for $1250 from Powercast's distributors, including microchipDIRECT.

About Powercast (http://www.microchip.com/get/BBG0)

Powercast Corporation is a leading innovator of RF energy harvesting and wireless power technology. Founded in 2003, Powercast's proprietary core technology and related intellectual property pioneered the model for completely untethered electronic devices by transmitting and harvesting common radio waves similar to those in wireless communications. Powercast's technologies eliminate or reduce the need for batteries, extend sensor networks into hard-to-service locations, and enable greater system efficiency in applications such as building automation and energy management.

About Microchip Technology

Microchip Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MCHP) is a leading provider of microcontroller, analog and Flash-IP solutions, providing low-risk product development, lower total system cost and faster time to market for thousands of diverse customer applications worldwide. Headquartered in Chandler, Arizona, Microchip offers outstanding technical support along with dependable delivery and quality. For more information, visit the Microchip website at http://www.microchip.com/get/A41W.

Note: The Microchip name and logo, and PIC are registered trademarks of Microchip Technology Inc. in the USA and other countries. All other trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective companies.
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