Power to the IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept and indeed a reality that embodies a network of physical objects or “things” embedded with software, sensors, and connectivity. This encompasses a huge variety of things. On the one hand, we have high power devices such as computers, tablets, smartphones, TVs, set-top boxes and the like. On the other, we have low power, low bandwidth devices such as sensors.

With the rapid adoption of smartphones, we’ve already been living with IoT for quite a while. Not alone is a smartphone a powerful computing device but it has quite an array of sensors built in. Modern smartphones contain accelerometers, barometers, thermometers, magnetometers, humidity sensors, light meters, gesture sensors, location sensors, gyroscopes, proximity sensors, cameras and microphones. Furthermore, they typically support multiple public and private networking technologies. This versatility has led to an explosion of applications to exploit such data. The exploitation of the aggregated data is just beginning, an example being journey time estimations based on aggregated traffic speed data from thousands of smartphones.

In a way, this first wave of the IoT has been easy. The smartphone owners have been willing accomplices, trading privacy and energy for functionality. As the power of smartphones (and sensor platforms) has increased, so has their power consumption – we are all familiar with the minimum-daily charging regime required by the current generation of smartphones.If the IoT is the process of leveraging data from any device connected to the Internet, then possibilities become endless when we connect up and leverage data from the things that surround us, and advances in

If the IoT is the process of leveraging data from any device connected to the Internet, then possibilities become endless when we connect up and leverage data from the things that surround us, and advances in power supply will be one of the drivers of the next wave of IoT.

Some things are easily wired/powered – so that sensors simply tap into the appliance power supply. Think of the recent emergence of WiFi-connected lightbulbs and thermostats, and the resultant home-management applications. Supplying power to wireless things can problematic – many of us are familiar with the need to annually replace batteries in the smoke alarm or wireless alarm sensors and indeed the exorbitant call-out charge from the alarm companies to do that. Solving the power problem for wireless sensors is a major global focus.

This is being addressed in terms of better batteries and also in having rechargeable batteries and supercapacitors charged through energy harvesting techniques, the goal being to remove the need to have to worry about battery replacement. Better batteries are needed to fully realise the potential of a wireless IoT, batteries that can handle divergent requirements in terms of power, lifetime, thinness, flexibility, reliability, cost, … We are seeing developments in thin film, flexible and printed batteries now joined by developments of similar form factor supercapacitors.

Energy harvesters are a modern take on the perpetual watch developed in the 1920s and derive their power from the surrounding environment by leveraging motion (magnetic induction), vibration, strain (piezoelectric), heat (thermopiles and thermocouples), light (photovoltaic) and sound, and can be used to charge miniature batteries and supercapacitors.

These developments, combined with protocols such as Thread, ZigBee and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) are enabling the deployment of cheap, low power, low bandwidth, wireless sensors.

In addition to the sensor-enabling advances described above, we have also seen huge advances in availability of low-cost ubiquitous computing power and storage, be it locally deployed or accessible via the cloud. We are also at a time when we’ve seen major advances in data analytics, cognitive computing and autonomous systems. In short, we now have a confluence of enablers available, leading us into a virtuous cycle and driving exponential growth of the IoT.

By bringing everyday objects into the Internet of Things, we can get insights into the world around us. The linking of devices to networks changes the nature of these devices themselves – clothes become health monitors, lighting and heating become personalised. The various networks themselves become new markets – the personal bio market, smart homes, smart cities, smart cars, smart farms etc. It is in terms of the individual use cases within these vertical markets that the value of the IoT is realised. The number of niche applications is essentially limitless – some are large, some are tiny, but all can be profitable.

So you’ve figured out a superb and potentially very profitable business and you want to bring it to market? You’ve mastered the sensor side, you’ve figured out what data you need and how you’re going to collect it. You have a business case. You’ve worked out how to get it to market. You have compelling use cases and you’re imagination is running away with itself – this vision is real. Now how to turn it into a reality? How to design, how to engineer, how to handle systems integration, ensure data integrity and security, how to be economic to build for thousands of users but able to scale to millions, how to get to market quickly?

This is where we get excited. We can help you to make your vision a reality, working with you to design the solution, figuring out where to allocate functionality, where and how to handle data, how to secure the solution and the data within, what analytical techniques are useful, and how to collaboratively leverage 3rd party services where applicable.

For example, we have leveraged smartphone data to provide our customers with ground-breaking applications, addressing both their customers’ needs and their own internal engineering needs. Other solutions interpolate classic low-level sensor metrics such as capacitance and impedance to deliver lasting customer value.

Our largest deployed customer solution processes over 6 billion data records a day. We collaborate with academic and commercial research institutes to advance and leverage appropriate techniques to analyse huge volumes of data – we help our customers gain insights from the data and importantly, leverage those insights. Let us help you to achieve your vision.

November 19th, 2015|