Just as the space program yielded technological benefits for people who get no closer to orbit than a flight to Florida, Internet of Things (IoT) developments will affect all electronic endeavors.
Earlier this week, I wrote about 802.11ah, a planned Wi-Fi standard that proponents hope will facilitate a mesh of ubiquitous connectivity. That will mostly be about the IoT, but will have ramifications elsewhere. A development arc that will have even broader impact will emerge from the need to drastically cut power in sensors and other remote IoT elements.
Many endpoints of the IoT will be inaccessible. In addition, sensors literally will be all over the place. There also will be millions – eventually billions – of them. A way must be found to keep them humming for decades without the human intervention that in many cases will simply be impossible.
This challenge will be partly confronted by creating sensors that can harvest energy from the sun or from odd-sounding sources such as wireless power that happens to be floating by. Other ideas: Machine Design says that the IPS Group is developing wireless parking meters that use built-in solar panels and industrial grade rechargeable LI-ion batteries to store energy. CattleWatch is using solar power “smart collars” to help ranchers remotely manage herds.
The other response to the challenge is a no-brainer: Simply reduce the power necessary to a bare minimum.
Progress is being made on that front. This week, AT&T, Ericsson and Altair said that they are demonstrating the use of the LTE Power Saving Mode on Altair’s FourGee-1160 Cat 1, according to WirelessWeek. Power Saving Mode is a 3GPP feature that has been defined for both GSM and LTE Networks. It is aimed at facilitating battery life of 10 years with normal usage. The key is enabling the sensor to enter a deep sleep mode that can last for days.
It is a topic that is generating attention. Android Authority last week announced that ARM has upgraded the Mali-400 GPU. The Mali-470 GPU is designed for wearables and the IoT market. The biggest change between the two units is that the Mali-470 uses about half the power of the older version. It is, according to the story, good for use cases of “limited battery capacities and particularly strict thermal limits.” The performance is the same as the Mali-400 despite the reduced power draw, the story says.
Earlier this month, Dialog Semiconductor and Bosch Sensortec announced what EngineerLive called “an extremely low power” smart sensor platform. The DA14580 Bluetooth Smart System Bluetooth Smart System-on-a-Chip, according to the story, is the world’s lowest power 12-DOF smart sensor reference platform. It is aimed at immersive gaming, gesture recognition in wearable computing devices and similar use cases.
Power is a huge issue in the IoT. Chances are the challenge will be met. It also is likely that the technology and procedures developed to do so will have impact far beyond the IoT.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at [email protected] and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.