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Is there any alternative to wired USB power for these kinds of projects? Are there any teeny wifi boards that can be powered for long periods by a AAA, 9V, or button cell?

(IoT newb)

"Long periods" "wifi" and AAA, pick two. Wifi is too power-hungry for batteries, unfortunately. You'd probably get a day or two of continuous operation on a biggish battery, I'm guessing.

You could probably use Zigbee for something like this, although I don’t know whether there are any v.small zigbee capable arduino interfaces. Running the display is going to take some power too, unless you can find a small e-ink option.

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