Now more than ever we must put the energy sourced from the Sun and lighting to work
The practicality and convenience of connected IoT devices continues to grow as they literally change the game, taking efficiency to new heights and streamlining operations for virtually every industry, including manufacturing, agriculture, medicine, transportation, real estate and more. You name the industry, and there’s a way that connected IoT sensors and trackers can change the way that companies do business. And for consumers, IoT devices are delivering new experiences that we could only have dreamed of – just think about how smart speakers talk to consumers and wearables help users track their health and fitness. Given the multitude of advantages that the IoT can bring, ABI Research predicts installed base for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and NFC devices will be more than 35 billion globally by 2023.
It’s great to see the progress that industries are making with connected IoT devices, but along with these advances comes a big concern: how to deal with the challenges of batteries powering the billions of devices. Batteries are costly to maintain and also do long-term harm to our environment when they are discarded.
The team at Atmosic – which is expert in wireless communications and low-power silicon solutions – has focused all its efforts to help solve the battery dilemma of the connected IoT. Atmosic has created ultra-low power solutions that can enable forever-battery life for connected devices, and even enable devices to be completely battery-free.
Bringing Energy Harvesting to Maturity
The first step to enabling energy harvesting was to create an ultra-low power connectivity solution. When the connectivity doesn’t consume a lot of energy, even modest amounts of harvested energy can be sufficient to power an IoT device. Atmosic created our Lowest Power Radio and On-demand Wake Up technologies to dramatically lower power consumption, enabling the batteries powering devices to last forever. Learn more about our M2 SoC series here.
Secondly, Atmosic combined its ultra-low power connectivity advancements with energy harvested from ambient radio frequencies (RF), thermal, kinetic and photovoltaic – including both solar and indoor/outdoor lighting – energy sources to develop its M3 SoC series.
With its photovoltaic energy harvesting, Atmosic’s M3 series is ideal for large connected IoT deployments, such as networked wireless, location-based sensors in venues such as hospitals, malls, stadiums, entertainment venues, factories, retail stores and enterprises. Imagine the massive battery maintenance required of such deployments, which consumes time, money and potential down time if batteries are short lived and need to be frequently re-charged or replaced. With Atmosic’s Bluetooth® connectivity M3 series solutions powered by energy harvested from either the Sun or lighting, it’s feasible to power large deployments of sensors or other devices with a tiny battery that lasts the lifetime of the device. And some devices with Atmosic’s M3 don’t even need a battery at all.
The M3 series has been designed to store harvested energy in a variety of ways to enable flexible product design and implementation best suited to specific application requirements. The M3 supports power storage with three scenarios where power is stored, as depicted in the images below:
- Supercapacitor for “battery-free” operation
- Standard battery for “extended battery life”
- Rechargeable battery for “forever-battery” operation
The M3 is a self-contained solution, integrating:
- An ultra-low power Bluetooth 5.0 solution
- An advanced power management unit (PMU) to manage multiple energy inputs for the battery and harvested energy from external sources (RF, photovoltaic, thermal and kinetic)
- Connection to a storage capacitor (or rechargeable battery) which collects excess harvested energy
Photovoltaic power, sourced from either the Sun or light, can be captured by a photovoltaic (PV) cell. Think of it as a tiny solar panel or screen integrated into the product design and used to capture light energy. Atmosic has teamed up with partners providing PV cell solutions in a variety of sizes and configurations to address the needs of different product applications and design configurations. For example, a battery-free beacon can be powered by light captured indoors with a cell roughly the size of two postage stamps. Devices using more power will require proportionally larger cells.
In the case of beacons, the energy required to sustain the beacon depends on the beaconing interval, the packet size and transmit power level, all which impact the consumed energy.
For example, a 10 cm-squared PV cell can support a battery-free operation for:
- Beacons powered by high/retail light levels that transmit information every 100 milliseconds
- Beacons at office lighting levels that transmit information every 200 milliseconds
- Beacons in low light environments that transmit information at two second intervals
With a clear understanding of the operating requirements for connected IoT devices like beacons and sensors, savvy OEMs can design products that can readily sustain operation for the life of a device – without a battery or with a “forever battery” that automatically recharges for the life of the IoT device.
The Atmosic team has created proof of concept designs for commonly used IoT devices, powered by photovoltaic energy harvested by the M3, including a PV-powered beacon, remote and keyboard. Each of these designs integrate a PV cell that’s the equivalent size of half the width of a credit card, or roughly 5cm x 2cm. You can see these in demonstration here.
These are just a few examples of what can be achieved with the energy harvested from the Sun and lighting, and are the start of our quest to help deliver a battery-free and forever-battery connected IoT. For more information on how you can integrate ultra-low power Bluetooth connectivity and energy harvesting from many different ambient sources into connected devices, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the past decade, the IoT has helped to reshape the healthcare industry. Wearable medical devices have given patients and the medical staff taking care of them an easy way to monitor their vitals and detect issues before they become serious problems. One emerging use case for wearable medical devices is continuous glucose monitoring, a relatively pain-free way to track the real-time effects of food and exercise on one’s blood glucose levels.
A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a compact medical system that continuously monitors one’s blood sugar levels in real time. To use a CGM, one inserts a sensor just under the skin that includes a tiny cannula. This sensor measures glucose readings in interstitial fluid (the fluid that surrounds cells in the body) continuously day and night. A transmitter that is wirelessly (e.g. Bluetooth) attached to the sensor sends glucose levels to a display device – say a mobile phone – which shows the user their blood sugar levels and can send an alert when these levels are too high or low. One problem with traditional CGM solutions is that the transmitter, pump and charger batteries need to be charged regularly since they are in constant use.
Atmosic’s ultra-low-power wireless technology solutions can help solve this problem. Atmosic’s M2 and M3 system-on-chips (SoCs) use our Controlled Energy Harvesting (M3 only), Lowest Power Radio and On-demand Wake-Up technologies to enable forever battery life, eliminating the need for battery replacement for a significantly longer period of time. This means that Atmosic-powered CGMs won’t need to be charged, and the batteries won’t need to be replaced, for the lifetime of the device. Plus, companies could even design CGMs that don’t require batteries at all, relying on Atmosic’s technology to harvest power from RF, light or heat energy sources. CGMs with forever battery life, or CGMs that run without any batteries, would be much more convenient for people to use so they don’t have to worry about their medical device running low on batteries and perhaps miss out on critical health information being captured and communicated. Furthermore, battery waste has a significant impact on the environment, so solutions that enable batteries to run for years without being replaced, or that don’t require any batteries, are much more environmentally friendly.
Another exciting benefit of using Atmosic’s solutions for CGMs is the possibility for remote monitoring. Today, the sensors and transmitters in most CGMs must be within six feet of the receiver to transmit data. Atmosic’s low-power energy harvesting technology uses Bluetooth 5, which increases connected devices’ range by four times the range of previous Bluetooth generations. This increased range can be especially helpful for doctors to monitor their patients, or parents to monitor their children, anytime, anywhere via a browser or smartphone application.
At a time when the healthcare industry is facing staffing shortages, increasing efficiency while maintaining patient care has become a global priority. Forever battery or battery-free CGM solutions with Atmosic’s cutting-edge technologies promise to help people around the world monitor their health while enjoying the convenience of a device that always works, without worrying about charging or replacing batteries. Atmosic is committed to continuing innovation in this field to drive the battery-free IoT revolution in the healthcare industry and beyond.
As managed environments turn to wearables to help keep people safe, extended battery life and battery-free solutions will be critical for device fleets
In April, Apple and Google made headlines when they announced a partnership to make it easier for governments and health agencies to roll out COVID-19 exposure notifications systems. These applications will work by using Bluetooth® to exchange anonymous identifiers with other smartphones that are less than six feet away. If someone becomes infected, health officials can notify people who recently came into close contact with that person, while still maintaining everyone’s privacy.
But smartphones are just one platform that will be used for Bluetooth-based exposure notification systems designed to help mitigate the spread of the virus. Atmosic believes wearables – like wrist bands, beacons and sensors – will also be essential in the fight against COVID-19 when used in conjunction with mask-wearing and testing.
Not Everyone Has a Smartphone or Constant Access to One
Although smartphones have become a pivotal part of modern life, it’s important to remember that many people still don’t own a personal smartphone. Young children might enjoy playing games on their parents’ smartphones, but many parents will understandably wait until their child has reached a certain age and maturity level before giving them a smartphone. Senior citizens are another group whose level of smartphone ownership is lower than the rest of the population. Plus, even if someone has a phone, they might not have constant access to it. For example, workers in a food production plant might own smartphones, but they might not be able to use them during work hours for safety reasons.
So how can people without constant access to a smartphone stay informed about their potential exposure to the virus? Wearables are an easy solution. Wearables are relatively low-cost, lightweight and comfortable for all-day wear, making them an ideal choice whether a child is going to school or an adult wants to go about their daily activities without carrying around a smartphone.
Managed environments will be one of the biggest use cases for wearable-based exposure notification systems. A managed environment is simply a location that a company or another entity, like the government, oversees. We anticipate that exposure notification systems will be particularly popular in the following types of managed environments:
- Shipping warehouses and factories
- Corporate campuses
- Healthcare facilities
- Cruise ships
- Amusement parks and stadiums
There are a number of reasons why companies will rely on wearables to help keep their employees and customers safe. One reason is that smartphones and other personal devices are often not allowed in industrial environments. Beyond that, many companies will require customized exposure notification systems that go beyond the parameters set by the applications run by health and government authorities. For example, a facility might want wearables that log a contact event whenever employees come within 12 feet of each other, which is double the distance of current exposure notification systems.
Companies might also want to use wearables that can track other types of valuable information, such as temperature. If an employee’s temperature goes beyond a certain threshold, companies could mandate that they go to an onsite health clinic for further evaluation. Wearables might also be designed to withstand certain conditions, like high temperatures, and be tamper and tear resistant for continuous wear. Additionally, different types of managed environments will require different levels of privacy protections. For example, users’ location data might be kept private for use in corporate campuses, while factories might want to know exactly where its employees are on the factory floor at any given time to ensure the health and safety of all their workers.
With Bluetooth 5.0, wearables can now exchange information over longer distances (~100 meters). This provides a wide range of flexible deployment options. For example, a managed environment might program wearables to share information with smartphones monitored by management located close by, while data gathering readers or hubs might be placed far away.
Long battery life will be key for managed environments deploying wearables for long term wear. In most cases, the managing entity is not set up to change batteries every few weeks, plus the labor resources needed to change batteries can quickly drive up costs. Adding lots of batteries to wearables will make these solutions bulky and hamper their usability, so solutions with low power consumption will be preferred.
Where Atmosic Comes In
Atmosic’s M2 and M3 system-on-chip (SoC) solutions integrate the company’s groundbreaking Lowest Power Radio and On-demand Wake-Up technologies. The Atmosic M3 Battery-Free Bluetooth 5 SoC also integrates cutting-edge Managed Energy Harvesting technologies for forever battery life and can even replace the need for batteries entirely. Atmosic’s technologies are based on the long range (~100m) Bluetooth 5.0 protocol, so the M2 and M3 will work well with wearables based on Apple and Google’s framework, in addition to working with customized exposure notification systems.
Thanks to Atmosic’s power-efficiency innovations, our solutions can enable at least double the battery life – or extend battery life far beyond that, in many cases – of competitive solutions embedded in wearables with coin cell batteries. Depending on the size of a coin cell battery, it is possible that a basic wearable with an Atmosic SoC could last multiple years.
In the future, wearables with Atmosic’s technology will also take advantage of energy harvesting to further extend battery life and, in many cases, eliminate the need for batteries entirely. Energy harvesting technology helps to reduce the size of batteries in a device and enables sleeker form factors for wearables. For example, we could envision a monitoring device placed in a mask in the near future.
We are already seeing that many wearables manufacturers are looking to bring to market wearables designed for exposure notification systems in a wide variety of environments and use cases. At the most basic level they will be notification devices, or they could have temperature sensing for additional monitoring capabilities. We anticipate that this space will see rapid growth in the coming months as companies rush to bring these wearables to market and ramp up efforts to help stop the spread of the virus.
According to a recent report from IDC, the number of connected devices used globally will reach 41.6 billion by the end of 2025. The IoT world continues to expand and develop at a rapid pace, so what trends should we expect in the IoT in 2020? Here are a few of our predictions for the upcoming year.
Prediction #1: 5G will enable more growth for Bluetooth devices such as beacons, asset tracking, sensing, tags and locationing.
There’s been a lot of hype and excitement around 5G, but what hasn’t been discussed much is how 5G will impact the market for Bluetooth devices. For large IoT deployments, Bluetooth and 5G will play pivotal roles in connecting devices at different points in a system. For example, a network of sensors in a factory can communicate with each other using Bluetooth Mesh technology. Atmosic chooses Bluetooth 5.0 as its platform of choice because Bluetooth connectivity is ideal for devices that require mid-range, low power operation and extended battery life. These devices can connect to a gateway point that is also connected with 5G, enabling the gateway to take advantage of the ultra-fast speeds of 5G to send information to the cloud or a server over longer range.
Prediction #2: Always on, always connected edge processing devices will demand low-power extended battery life.
As the number of IoT edge devices grows, the trend continues towards true “wireless” (i.e., no power line or data line). Edge processing will allow connected devices to process information faster for a more seamless user experience. Edge processing capabilities are especially true for connected devices that process sounds, motion or other types of inputs for sensing, tracking, remote access, wearables and mobile accessories such as audio headsets. These devices need to be always on, always connected to instantly process information without the latency involved in connecting to central nodes on a network. As a result of more processing being pushed to the edge, battery life is becoming more and more critical. Connection and processing elements need to be very low power for these devices to operate efficiently. Atmosic enables very Low Power Wireless and On-Demand Wake Up receivers to conserve energy to enable battery-free or forever battery devices. Extended battery life, in turn, will support more smart devices at the edge. We will see a growing need for embedded solutions that enable low-power and extended battery life so edge devices will not require frequent battery changes.
Prediction #3: More connected devices will use energy harvesting to prolong battery life.
With an increase in 5G and edge processing devices, extended battery life and energy harvesting will become significantly more critical. Atmosic’s M3 SoC solution enables energy harvesting technologies that can pull power from ambient photovoltaic (light), radio frequency (RF), and thermal sources, and mechanical (motion). We begin to see energy harvesting used for connected devices that don’t require significant power; devices such as indoor locationing beacons might use indoor lighting sources for energy, while smart light switches might use motion power. Beyond these, we will see more products featuring “battery-free life” technologies. Devices that use energy harvesting will allow consumers to enjoy their favorite smart home devices without worrying about changing batteries as often. However, industrial use of these energy harvesting solutions will be the real game-changer. Devices with extended battery life or without the need of any batteries will significantly reduce deployment and maintenance costs for IoT fleets, while also reducing the environmental impact of batteries.
Looking forward to 2020, Atmosic is focused on driving the battery-free IoT revolution with its lowest-power Bluetooth and controlled energy harvesting technologies. Atmosic’s M2 and M3 solutions enable extended battery life and battery-free operation for IoT devices used for a wide variety of applications. The company is committed to innovation and will continue to create new solutions to reduce the environmental impact of batteries and decrease the cost of battery maintenance, thereby benefitting the planet, consumers, and the IoT industry.
Redefining Battery Life at Wireless Congress: Systems & Applications
By Srinivas Pattamatta, Vice President of Business Development of Atmosic
Wireless technologies are always advancing and expanding their reach in our current world. Platforms such as Bluetooth 5.0 (BLE) enables wider ranges of connectivity at lower power thresholds and battery-free wireless solutions are becoming more accessible and easier to use. This past month, I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at Wireless Congress: Systems & Applications in Munich. I was able to discuss some of the major challenges industry leaders and wireless professionals face when implementing energy-efficient Internet of Things (IoT) devices within an array of industries including healthcare, smart homes and smart cities.
Healthcare automation is one of the largest drivers in the medical industry from applications such as hospital asset tracking and indoor locationing to patient health monitoring and tracking. The IoT has amazing potential to help improve healthcare for both patients and medical professionals alike. Historically, it has been a challenge for the healthcare industry to ensure that the data communication not only works with existing infrastructures, but is wirelessly powered. However, with current technologies, the cost of manually replacing batteries and losing equipment can be life-threatening – not to mention time-consuming for healthcare professionals to manage. Forever battery/battery-free solutions have the potential to change the healthcare industry for the better, strengthening the lifetime of the connected devices.
As mentioned in my talk, Atmosic set out to solve these challenges. By redefining battery life, our team launched the M2 and M3 Series solutions based on the Bluetooth® 5 standard and enhanced with our Lowest Power Radio and On-demand Wake Up to deliver 10 to 100 times lower power. The M3 solution leverages Controlled Energy Harvesting that is capable of harvesting energy from multiple power sources – RF, photovoltaic, mechanical, and thermal – enabling battery-free operation for IoT devices. With the BLE 5.0 platform, controlled energy harvesting can be supported over a long-range – about 100m – allowing hosts to connect the energy source at distance.
There is enormous potential in leveraging multiple energy harvesting sources to power the IoT. Above we talked about the healthcare industry and our M2 / M3 solution, let’s explore others.
- RF energy sources: Can harvest a wide frequency range including 915 MHz & 2.4Ghz generating up to 10s of mW of energy. The independent RF and Bluetooth links mean the RF source can be separated. This is ideal for applications such as badges, tags, locationing, electronic shelf labels, HIDs, and home and building automation.
- Photo/light energy sources: Using photo/solar panels which can range in size from 1cm2 when closer to the source and about 6inch2 when 10 feet or about 200lux from the source. This is ideal for outdoor and indoor applications such as badges, tags, locationing, electronic shelf labels, HIDs, and home and building automation.
- Motion energy sources: Great for continuous or occasional use. This energy sources will need to be close to the application such as a single click providing energy for BLE beacons. Applications that work best here are for wearables, tracking and home automation.
- Thermal energy sources: Harvesting thermal gradients with changes in temperature that creates the energy needed to power devices. The thermos-electronic generator, partnership with Matrix Industries, can generate ~10s of mWs of energy. Applications that are ideal for thermal energy harvesting are wearables, tracking, farming, and home and building automation.
Wireless Congress: Systems & Applications was a great opportunity to find out more about the latest developments and trends in wireless communication and where Atmosic fits within that ecosystem. It was great to observe presentations on system integration and practical applications, as well as real-world examples from the fields of IoT, automation and LPWAN. Across the board, it was a great show. It is clearer than ever that now is the time to RE-VOLT and bring a battery-free IoT to devices.
RE-VOLT – Now is the time to join the Battery-Free IoT Revolution
By Masoud Zargari, Co-founder and Vice President of Engineering at Atmosic Technologies
It is believed that throughout the universe, more complex structures require denser flows of energy in order to maintain their complexity. This manifestation of the second law of thermodynamics — and its evil cousin entropy — applies to galaxies, stars and planets as well as the little civilization we’ve built in our neck of woods. While the second law of thermodynamics has sparked many philosophical debates throughout history, our focus here is on its simple yet daunting ramification: an exponentially increasing demand for energy to fuel our civilization.
Recent technological advances have not only intensified the need for energy, but also changed the forms in which we demand energy. The convenience offered by portable devices and wireless connectivity has increased the worldwide battery consumption to unsustainable levels. By some estimates, in just a few years there will be over 35 billion connected devices worldwide, most running on some form of battery. If we conservatively assume only 10% of those batteries need to be annually replaced, it will translate to over 3.5 billion disposed batteries every year… and the party is just beginning!
At Atmosic Technologies, we are fundamentally addressing this increasing demand for batteries by significantly reducing the power consumption of connected devices, so their batteries are drained less frequently and in turn last much longer. More importantly, once the power consumption of connected nodes is dramatically reduced, they can potentially run off harvested ambient energy from the environment. This means that a low power wireless node can run completely from sources such as radio frequency (RF) signals, in-door lighting, thermal gradient, or motion. Alternatively, the energy gathered from the environment can supply a regular trickle of current to the battery so that the device can operate longer between charges.
RF Energy Harvesting
The RF energy beamed from an RF transmitter can be picked up by a receiver at a faraway distance and, if this detected energy is large enough, it can be used to power up the receiver electronics. Although nowadays there are many sources of RF energy such as Wi-Fi routers and cellular devices around us, the overall ambient RF energy in a typical environment hardly gets large enough to be viewed as a reliable source to power today’s connected devices. However, if dedicated RF sources are strategically placed in the environment, they can beam RF power to a specific wireless node that is placed at a reasonable distance making the available RF energy at that node to be much higher than what is otherwise available in the ambient. This so called “controlled harvesting” can then be used as a reliable method of powering remote devices.
Controlled RF energy harvesting is especially useful in powering up electronics wirelessly in scenarios in which it is hard or impractical to replace batteries in a deployed wireless network. It is also useful when the network is deployed in difficult to access areas as in many industrial environments. RF Harvesting has the advantage that it can be available anytime when needed by simply turning on the RF source. The frequency of the RF signal can be anywhere within the unlicensed frequency bands of several 100s of MHz to several GHz. The lower the frequency the longer the range of the RF power transmission. However, lower frequencies demand proportionally larger antenna sizes for the harvester which can become a limiting factor in applications where the size of the harvesting node is constrained.
Since the development of the first silicon-based solar cell in the 1950s, the photovoltaic technology has been dramatically improved. Today’s advanced solar cells have better durability and efficiency and can produce larger output voltages for a given light intensity. The electric power generated by a solar cell is directly proportional to its size. However, the generated power can vary drastically depending on the intensity of ambient light. The same solar panel can produce up to a 1000 times higher power under direct sunlight vs. in a typical indoor office environment. Solar panels are not exactly color blind either meaning that they will behave differently under different indoor sources such as incandescent, florescent and LED lights.
Thermal Energy Harvesting
A thermoelectric generator (TEG) is a solid-state device that generates electricity by exploiting temperature gradient in the environment. The amount of generated power depends on the temperature difference as well as the amount of heat flux that can be successfully moved through the TEG device. The better the TEG construction is at moving heat from the hot side to the cold side and dissipating that heat once it arrives to the cold, the more power will be generated. Because of the need to maintain a temperature gradient, thermoelectric energy harvesting solutions can require larger form factors compared to other form of harvesters in order to generate useful amount of energy.
Motion-based Energy harvesting
There are two types of motion-based energy harvesters: (1) the more traditional ones using a coil and magnet and (2) the ones based on piezoelectric effect. The coil and magnet-based harvesters can generate electric energy through the physical movement when a switch is flipped or when a door knob is turned. These types of motion-based harvesters are usually bulkier due to the size of their required components: a coil, a magnet and frequently a spring. Piezoelectric energy harvesters generate electrical energy from mechanical strains, either in the form of continuous mechanical motion/vibration, or from intermittent strains such as clicking of a button. Because their small crystalline structure, piezoelectric harvesters are relatively small and light compared to other energy harvesting devices. However, their generated power can vary significantly depending on how regular and frequent the motion is.
Atmosic M3 Bluetooth 5.0 SoC platform supports controlled RF energy harvesting as well as photovoltaic, thermal and motion-based harvesting. In particular, a fully integrated single IC with RF energy harvesting can provide small form factor battery-free operation up to a distance of several meters from the RF source.
While no one can defy the second law of thermodynamics, or any other law of physics for that matter, we can certainly create meaningful solutions that provide less pain to the IoT users and less harm to our environment. This is the first step in the journey. This is the time to RE-VOLT. This is the time to join the battery-free IoT revolution.
(Originally posted: Embedded Computing Design)
The age of the smart home is here. Recently, Bluetooth released its Market Update announcing that a whopping 1.15 billion annual shipments of Bluetooth smart home devices are expected by 2023. Gone are the days of wondering what it might be like to control lighting with a voice command, or automatically regulate a home’s temperature. Smart home technology has reached a point where it has become widely accepted and widely accessible – with data to back it up.
Voice Assistants are one of the most familiar smart home devices to many consumers, both for entertainment and performing some level of home automation, but there are many other emerging technologies that make up the smart home. At Atmosic, we categorize smart home technology into three different sectors: home entertainment – such as remotes, voice assistants, audio systems; home utilities – like connected refrigerators or washing machines and home automation – including security systems, sprinklers, thermostats, and so on. Each category is inclusive of a number of connected devices that require an increasing number of batteries.
Why does this matter? As the number of wireless devices grows, the number of batteries grow. As the number of batteries grow, we’re seeing major increases in the financial and environmental costs of replacing them. Why aren’t batteries lasting longer? Let’s go one step deeper…
Most IoT devices are wireless, meaning they must connect to the Internet via a source like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth® or ZigBee®. Wi-Fi® is best suited for high throughput apps and streaming data to connected devices. ZigBee works well too, but it requires a hub that connects devices to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, thus it’s a two-step connection. Then, of course, there’s Bluetooth, which has advanced to BLE or Bluetooth 5, with long, Wi-Fi-like range in the home and compatibility with smart phones, laptops and other devices.
These sources are important as we look to examples within the emerging smart home categories. Take a home security device for example. There are now portable sensors in these devices that run off batteries and connect to security systems via Bluetooth. Because the sensors are constantly sensing and connecting, the battery quickly runs out or the device requires a larger or more batteries to avoid draining. This means continuous monitoring for the battery replacement and a much higher opportunity cost for a dead battery in a security device.
This scenario can be applied across any connected in-home device: automated door locks, automated sprinkler systems, temperature sensors, and a multitude of other such applications. Many of them are battery powered and US regulation does not allow use of rechargeable batteries in many of them. Once again, we’re faced with the challenge of replacing a battery very frequently.
Now imagine a world where you can extend the life of a device by extending battery replacement from “every few months” to “every few years” to “the entire life of the device.” Atmosic’s M2 and M3 Series technologies can leverage many sources of power – RF, thermal, light and mechanical – to harvest energy for the growing number of connected devices. This extends battery life significantly or eliminates the need of batteries altogether, and greatly reduces the huge financial and environmental impact that comes with constantly replacing batteries. Arguably most importantly, the fear of a device monitoring security or locks in the home will not face the challenge of going dark due to battery drainage.
The age of the smart home as arrived, and the number of devices connecting to the IoT will only grow. That’s why it is our mission to create the Forever Battery or Battery Free solutions, so that consumers can seamlessly connect devices in their home without worrying about cost of battery failure.
Connectivity is a crucial element for any healthcare facility. Even before all the recent chatter of the latest generation of mobile networks (5G) and multiple wireless generations of Bluetooth® and Wi-Fi®, and LTE and wired networking before that, connecting a patient to a monitor and then connecting that monitor to screens or devices for medical professionals to check has always been important—it’s been the difference between life and death. But there’s more to connectivity in healthcare than critical patient monitoring.
Today’s healthcare facilities and hospitals now use connectivity that goes beyond what’s needed in the monitoring-for-life-and-death scenario. The wireless technology of choice is Bluetooth, due to the low-bandwidth requirements of these IoT applications, which typically fall into three categories: noncritical patient monitoring, hospital asset tracking and indoor locationing (for example, in very big healthcare campuses where it is easy for things and people to get lost).
Atmosic’s M2 and M3 Bluetooth® 5 platforms, which greatly enhance low-bandwidth IOT applications through lowest power radio design, on-demand receive and controlled energy harvesting, are well-designed for all three categories. Atmosic SoCs provide connectivity at 10-to-100 times lower power relative to other solutions, and offer the added bonus of energy harvesting as a viable power source for connected devices. This means that some IOT devices will be able to source power from energy harvesting through RF or other means (like indoor lighting) and will utilize that power to extend the battery life significantly, or power the device completely, without batteries at all.
Noncritical Patient Monitoring
Examples of noncritical patient monitoring include badges or wrist-bands that incorporate sensors. These might be battery-less bands that read simple data to share vitals—such as common biometrics or even patient IDs—over Bluetooth. RF or light-sourced energy is available through the hospital to power such devices. In some cases the patient could be sent home with the same monitoring device, helping to track and continue the tracking of various vitals post hospital stay, since the first few days after a hospital stay are sometimes crucial for the transition of patient into home care. In addition, connected badges or wrist-bands can track the whereabouts of patients while they are at the facility, an extremely important function for large campuses.
By using battery-free technology such as Atmosic’s, the hospital or healthcare facility can reduce the costs of setting up and continually monitoring patient vitals. One additional benefit? Since batteries can sometimes be problematic for certain types of patient procedures and tests involving magnetics, Atmosic’s battery-free solutions can enable the patient to continue to be monitored even during those type of activities. Finally, since these devices can be re-programmed, they can be re-used for other patients by re-formatting for the new patient (and deleting the previous patent information).
Hospital Asset Tracking
With all of the specialized equipment in a modern day hospital, tracking of these assets is one of the largest problems today. And the larger the healthcare campus, the more challenging the situation is likely to be. This typically occurs because the facility has no standard mechanism for asset tracking, as the assets come from a variety of providers. Add to that, there is no dedicated staff in place to change and maintain the assets or to ensure the batteries and power supplies are current. As such, there are three benefits for asset tracking. Firstly it helps account for the assets – today an average hospital can only account for 60% of assets. The second is it helps in locating them when needed. Thirdly, it could help medical facilities to fulfill compliance and regulatory rules; with an example of alerting when the last defibrillator is being removed from a floor since there should be minimum one per floor.
In fact, many healthcare facilities expect nursing staff to manually track assets, which is a losing proposition when considering the true priority of the nursing staff is care of the patients. A typical 1000- bed hospital has 60-70 thousand assets and takes a staff of four about 120 days annually to track!! With wirelessly connected asset tracking devices that are battery-free or life-time battery capable through energy harvesting, the facilities can save significantly in terms of staff performance, time, money and morale, not to mention cutting back on the number of batteries that need to be properly disposed of so as not to impact the environment. One of the benefits is not just the cost of the battery, but the cost of paying someone to replace the battery.
Indoor Locationing Beacons
The third category covers large hospitals and healthcare campuses—places where you need a map to find your way. These types of facilities often have mapping applications that visitors and employees can download to their cell phone. These applications will synchronize to take signals from beacons placed throughout the campus or hospital to help people get where they intend to go.
The beacons can be connected via Bluetooth and can be battery-free, harvesting energy from nearby devices through RF signals or indoor light energy. As the beacons don’t require a great deal of power, this scenario works perfectly, especially those based on Atmosic’s IOT SoCs.
To learn more about Atmosic’s M2 and M3 platforms, check out our products, here.
I visited the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican many years ago. After all these years, my most vivid impression was not the amazing painting but the noise level inside the chapel. The tourists were so loud that the guard had to clap his hands to silence the crowd! After a momentary silence, the whispering would start. When everybody was whispering, you’d have to raise your voice to be heard. Within a minute, the guard would clap again.
The RF environment of many public places has turned into the comparable noise levels of the Sistine Chapel because of the widespread deployment of Bluetooth® technology. Recently, I was at an airport attempting to pair a new Bluetooth device to my phone. It took some effort to find my desired device because there were so many other devices. Today, we will frequently find tens and even hundreds of Bluetooth devices around us. For these Bluetooth devices to find each other conveniently, each device may transmit a beacon every 100ms to 1s, 24 hours a day. The interval of the beacon is typically determined by how quickly the device wants to be heard. The ubiquitous adoption of Bluetooth beacons creates quite noisy RF environments around us. Similar to the Sistine Chapel, for a Bluetooth device to be heard over the noisy background, it may talk louder by increasing transmit power or talk more frequently by increasing the beacon frequency. Both of these approaches can further degrade the background noise level. In addition to contributing to the unnecessary RF chatter, a higher power and more frequent Bluetooth beacon will reduce the battery life of IoT devices.
The Atmosic M2 series provides an on-demand wakeup feature to reduce the need for frequent transmit beacons, and thereby improve battery life. With this approach, IoT wireless devices that communicate infrequently can stay in sleep mode unless they have data to transmit. The M2 series supports two wakeup modes: mid-range wakeup and long-range wakeup.
Mid-range wakeup features an ultra-low power wakeup receiver operating asynchronously. This hundreds-nano-amp wakeup receiver continuously scans for a pre-determined incoming RF paging signal. Once the paging signal is detected, the wakeup receiver will turn on the primary Bluetooth radio to perform either a transmit or receive operation. With an asynchronous wakeup receiver, the overall power consumption can be significantly lower than the traditional beacon. For example, a device that beacons once a second would be transmitting over 80,000 times a day, independent of any real data transfer. A low-duty cycle device, such as a door sensor, can reduce its actual transmission to as needed only, easily 100 times less frequently, which significantly extends its battery life.
Long-range wakeup utilizes Atmosic’s ultra-low power full function primary receiver at a preset duty cycle. For example, a device may turn on for 1ms every second, consuming an average receiver power of less than 1 microamp, while providing the range or coverage similar to that of Wi-Fi. For a crowded environment, such as a warehouse, this long-range wakeup feature provides a very low power and low interference alternative to frequent and loud beaconing.
Imagine a world of wireless devices that only transmit when they truly have information to communicate, at rest at all other times. We can dramatically extend the battery life of all these devices as well as lower the unnecessary background RF chatter. Now, if only someone can figure out a good way to reduce all that tourist chatter inside the Sistine Chapel.