Low power sources are key to sustaining IoT connections. Wake-up receivers which fire up components and energy harvesting are important ideas, but a rethink of how electronic gadgetry is designed and built may help.
The internet of things is growing rapidly as millions of connected meters and machines come online, bristling with sensors to measure the world around them. But how will we power all this electronic gadgetry in a sustainable way? One idea from the Fraunhofer Society in Germany is to use wake-up receivers. These devices use ultralow currents to monitor while a sensor networks and only fire up components when they are required to handle an incoming request or instruction.
Another idea is energy harvesting. Here, power generating elements are built into electronic systems to convert sunlight, vibration, or heat into power, for example. The hope is that energy harvesting could help extend battery life or eliminate the need for batteries entirely. In the UK, Drayson Technologies has developed Freevolts, an energy-harvesting technology that captures ambient radio frequency energy created by mobile phones and Wi-Fi transmissions and turns it into power.
Similarly, researchers at the University of Washington in the US recently demonstrated a batteryless smartphone that runs on power harvested from ambient radio signals and light. One thing is clear from the work done to date. In order to achieve the goal of building a low power IoT, it will be necessary to fundamentally rethink the way that electronic gadgetry is designed and built.