The world is becoming increasingly reliant on the Internet of Things (IoT), with industry experts predicting that by 2025, there will be over 75 billion connected devices globally. While there is no doubt that the IoT revolution has brought many benefits, it has also created new challenges, such as power consumption and e-waste.
Luckily, the market has started to experience a transformation as battery-free IoT devices have emerged as an alternative to traditional batteries, with the potential to revolutionize the industry altogether. These devices use ambient energy harvesting to power various gadgets and systems and, as a result, offer more extended lifespans and reduced maintenance requirements.
This article discusses the potential, applications, industry initiatives, and challenges faced by battery-free IoT devices with energy harvesting, highlighting their role in shaping the energy landscape and revolutionizing various industries.
Benefits of Battery-Free IoT Devices with Energy Harvesting
Battery-free IoT devices powered by energy harvesting technologies offer many benefits, including:
- E-waste reduction and lower energy consumption
- Remote location deployment
- Interconnectivity and smart automation
- Environmental monitoring
- Energy management
- Improved scalability and reliability
- Interoperability with other IoT devices
- Reduced maintenance requirements
- Longer lifespans extension
- Minimized carbon footprint
One of the significant benefits of battery-free IoT devices is that they help reduce e-waste, alleviate the pressure on landfills, and lower energy consumption. Additionally, these devices are ideal for remote locations that lack power outlets or where the cost of connecting to a grid is prohibitive.
Battery-free IoT devices powered by energy harvesting technologies use energy sources such as solar, RF (Radio Frequency), thermoelectric, and piezoelectric harvesting to source energy. RF energy harvesting, in particular, is a popular method that captures radio frequency waves to generate electrical power. This method has gained traction in the IoT industry because it can power numerous wireless sensors, making it useful for supply chain monitoring, security, and communications.
Initiatives like EU-funded ENABLES and Harvestall projects aim to develop intelligent self-charging batteries that can operate autonomously, further boosting the benefits of battery-free IoT devices. The development of self-charging batteries will provide an innovative way to power sensor networks and autonomous sensors without the need for dedicated power outlets or dead batteries.
Real-World Applications of Battery-Free IoT Devices
Several startups and public companies have started deploying battery-free IoT devices powered by energy harvesting technologies into real-world settings. These deployments demonstrate the capabilities of these devices and showcase their potential to revolutionize the IoT industry.
For instance, companies like Everactive deploy sensors in Anheuser-Busch breweries. These sensors use steam-generated heat to monitor steam traps that save carbon, which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. Another enterprise, Wiliot, has developed energy-harvesting stamps that tag large and small items, allowing supply chain partners to track and monitor products without using batteries.
Another company, Atmosic, has integrated CEVA’s RivieraWaves Bluetooth 5 Low Energy (RW-BLE5) IP with their M2 and M3 series IoT systems-on-chip (SoCs). This integration offered innovative energy-saving and energy-harvesting solutions, including bringing over-the-air wireless power to IoT devices, making them even more efficient and reliable.
Industry Initiatives to Develop Battery-Free IoT Devices
The IoT industry has started to realize the enormous potential of battery-free IoT devices, leading to widespread industry initiatives to develop new technologies and devices.
One of the significant initiatives driving the development of battery-free IoT devices is wireless energy harvesting (WEH). This technology captures radio frequency waves to generate electrical power and is popular in powering postage stamp-sized computer stickers in a wide range of products. These stickers provide real-time tracking and monitoring protection and are attracting increasing interest from RFID companies.
Atmosic technologies have also innovated by developing RF CMOS technologies that challenge the battery-replacement challenge associated with installing and maintaining a plethora of IoT devices with their Bluetooth 5 SoCs. This development is enhanced further by their technology optimizations that reduce power usage further. Additionally, their products provide a more standardized technology that is scalable and offers improved security and highly semantic networking.
Furthermore, the technology used in these devices has significant implications for smart cities and infrastructure. Autonomous IoT devices powered by energy harvesting technologies can monitor and manage people and goods transportation in real-time, helping to reduce traffic congestion, noise levels, and air pollution.
Challenges Faced By Battery-Free IoT Devices
Technical limitations are among the most significant challenges facing battery-free IoT devices. Developing energy storage capacitors that are small but long-lived enough to guarantee energy supply during intervals without energy harvesting is one such challenge. Standardization and interoperability challenges are also another roadblock to the widespread adoption of these devices.
Public awareness of the capabilities and potential benefits of these devices is another challenge that needs to be addressed. Without proper awareness, these devices may go underutilized, depriving society of benefits like energy efficiency and reduced e-waste.
Policy and regulatory considerations may also limit the widespread deployment of battery-free IoT devices. For instance, the development of devices using energy harvesting technology will need to consider the requirements for authenticity protection. The energy-harvesting technology used remains prone to non-carbon-neutral events that may influence its efficacy for certain applications.
However, solutions for these challenges are emerging through research and policy initiatives. Efforts to unify standards and improve interoperability among IoT devices will further accelerate the development and deployment of these devices. Developing smarter and more efficient energy-harvesting techniques is also critical for bypassing the limitations of current technologies.
Battery-free IoT devices are set to transform the IoT industry, making it more sustainable, cost-efficient, and reliable. With the growth in industry initiatives and real-world deployments, the potential for their adoption increases. Though several challenges exist, researchers and engineers are working to address them through research and policy. Ultimately, battery-free IoT devices powered by energy harvesting technologies have the potential to revolutionize society by offering innovative solutions to pressing challenges beyond the IoT industry.