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Funding for iFind Kickstarter Suspended 104

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the didn't-see-that-one-coming dept.
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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Funding for iFind Kickstarter Suspended

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  • 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.

  • WOOOOO! Spin spin sugar WOOOOOO
  • Are these folks now in some country the US does not have an extradition treaty with?
    • by ShaunC (203807)

      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.

    • At home crying and wondering if it is too late to cancel their Tesla orders.
    • by jandrese (485)
      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.
  • 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?

    • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @05:19PM (#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.

      • by sribe (304414) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @05:26PM (#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???

        ;-)

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        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.

        • by thegarbz (1787294)

          disagree with the *costing*

          damn autocorrect.

        • 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 comp

          • by thegarbz (1787294)

            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 y

          • by Alioth (221270)

            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 order

            • 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
            • 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 busi

          • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dainichi (1181931)

      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]

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

    • by Alioth (221270)

      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 pow

  • 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
    • 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? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Firethorn (177587) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @05:19PM (#47328187) Homepage Journal

      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.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        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.

    • 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? (Score:5, Informative)

      by KreAture (105311) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @05:23PM (#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.
    • by dainichi (1181931)

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

    • 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
    • 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

    • by ttucker (2884057)
      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.
    • by tibit (1762298)

      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.

    • by AC-x (735297)

      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 (Score:4, Informative)

    by turp182 (1020263) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @05:08PM (#47328089) Journal

    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.

    • by BillX (307153)

      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.)

  • by timholman (71886) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @05:39PM (#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.

    • 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.)

      • by timholman (71886)

        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 P

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

  • 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.

    • by AC-x (735297)

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

      • 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 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Darinbob (1142669) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @07:30PM (#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: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      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.

  • by Sique (173459) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @07:39PM (#47329213) Homepage
    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.
    • 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.
      • by thegarbz (1787294)

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

    • by Anonymous Coward

      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

      • by Sique (173459)
        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,

    • by MrL0G1C (867445)

      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.

    • by MrL0G1C (867445)

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

    • by AC-x (735297)

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

  • by ipstas (3573381)
    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?
    • by citizenr (871508)

      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.

    • 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 b

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