Do you still have to read your own stuff manually and check various meters in your e.g. factory area? Has that leaking valve ruined your storage or warehouse over the weekend? Has somebody left the door open and now, consequently, the cold storage is too warm causing direct money loss. Can you afford to lose your most valuable assets due to technical problems or just human error? Are there any technologies to alert you or prevent this from happening and give you instant look at systems status?
The way an IoT device is used and its capabilities have a direct impact on energy consumption. In some use cases, one could just measure the temperature every minute for years to provide mission-critical information to other systems. Those systems, based in the cloud or locally, are crunching data eagerly to exit that never-ending algorithm. Then it happens. The algorithm result is finally out. Bits and bytes are sent system-wide. Different kinds of communication routers and devices work all day long to support your sensor network.
So that brings the question of how the IoT devices get their power and how to make it last.
How do you make IoT devices with a long-lasting power source?
Is the key energy capacity stored inside the device or somewhere else? An easy way is to add more power capacity to handle the required operating years. But then we are, usually, out of scope. IoT devices became too big in size, maybe too heavy, due to battery size, or just too expensive. Better technologies are needed to efficiently use the smallest amount of energy possible. Solutions that are easy to install and forget. It just works for years and years. Remember that efficiency affects the total cost of ownership of your solution.
Design principles for ultra-low power devices are quite simple. When I have to do or measure something, I consider what is the most energy-efficient way to do it. Choosing the right components and using them in the correct way is needed. This is the stage when the designer is at their busiest. Search and research again to find suitable parts. Sometimes the device is so complex that we need to do pre-studies to really understand how it works. This is the situation when the datasheet is just not enough. Required battery capacity is first estimated and finally verified to fulfil all the requirements for the device.
Battery power and deep sleep stage
Between sensing activities, the IoT device should go to the sleep stage. Go really down to save energy as the IoT device spends most of the time in that state. What if deep sleep is not enough? What are other options then? What is lower than ultra-low battery optimisation? In these kinds of situations, IoT devices could limit connectivity and shutdown systems. No Nasa tech is required, just cut powers and wake up from timer or other interruptions generated by the device itself. It could also be an external wake-up call if the device is designed to pick that up.
In that case then, of course, you need to communicate with the outside world. High-frequency short-range radios usually have the lowest energy consumption. These radio waves go through walls forming up to tenths of meters of communication capability. System infra is always listening so you can communicate wisely. It might be also your sensor buddy next door. Does the IoT device need to send this data now or should it gather and send later in data burst? Is it required that data is sent every minute, or should it just send data when the data status has changed? Smartly designed IoT devices can change mode on how to handle data coming from integrated sensor components. You can also change parameters remotely to fit requirements. No need to stick to default settings. Remember, these settings might affect the device’s battery life.
After successful deployment
Cool, too warm, bad air? Now you have a smart IoT device deployed in your office area and property management can easily monitor your office environmental parameters. Temperatures can be set correctly to be comfortable for the employees. Monitoring CO2 can reveal how your office is being used. Is there poor ventilation in some rooms? Is ventilation power following directly CO2 levels or simply making sure that in the early morning it is set again to normal power to freshen the air inside the office before first workers come in. Automating and self-adapting is bringing more comfort and energy savings. Learning how property cools or warms up might be useful when programming for example weekends or vacation time energy savings. The system can also generate alerts from faulty behaving devices like too cold, something wrong with the heating. This will speed up the repair as alerts can be sent directly to the service technician responsible for that property.
One more thing. No, you should not care about IoT device battery life. It is your solution provider’s problem.
There are more to creating IoT devices than powering them. Learn what to consider when choosing an IoT technology partner to create the most suitable solution for you: