How will your IoT device be powered?

03 October 2018

Without power, an Internet of Things (IoT) device is just a thing. It is practically useless.

How will your IoT device get the power that it needs? There are three options:

  1. Wired. This is potentially a labor-intensive process both during installation. It might also be difficult to re-route the wires if a sensor needs to move to a different location. Wires also limit the mobility of the sensor – whether it is because the user of the device wants to move it or whether the IoT device is a sensor that is on a moving object. The upside of a wired solution is that energy is practically unlimited and has little risk of being interrupted.
  2. Battery. If the energy requirements of the IoT device are very small, a battery might provide a good solution for several years. However, the tight power budget does limit the functionality of a sensor, such as an update rate of data sent from the device. Batteries do need to be replaced from time to time and if there are many battery-operated devices (such as sensors in a smart building), one would essentially need to employ a crew of maintenance workers to constantly replace batteries. Depending on the location of the device, batteries may be difficult to replace.
  3. Wireless power. Wireless power delivery simplifies the process of installing and maintaining IoT devices. There are no wires to route and no batteries to replace. The power delivered to the device can be substantially higher than what is available using batteries. In many cases, a single wireless energy source can service multiple IoT devices.

No single technology is perfect. Wires break and are expensive to install. Batteries run out. Wireless power delivery might have limitations in the amount of power that can be delivered or in a need to have a line of sight between transmitter and receiver. Having said all that, wireless power deserves serious consideration as a power delivery mechanism for IoT devices.

We’ve spent years getting IoT devices to operate without a data cable. Many such devices include WiFi or Bluetooth technologies. Isn’t it time we get rid of the power cord?

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