The Future of Battery-Free Bluetooth Devices

April 1, 2020 Srinivas Pattamatta, Vice President of Business Development, Atmosic Technologies

With the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT), a multitude of wirelessly connected devices have entered the market. While electrical power cords are no longer required, the use of batteries is still a continued challenge in the market today. It is predicted there will be more than 35 billion connected IoT devices worldwide by 2023. Just imagine changing that many batteries even for a fraction of those devices. It would be a never-ending job, similar to painting The Golden Gate Bridge from one end to the other; by the time one side is finished, it’s time to start painting again. The labor and workforce costs to maintain fleets of battery powered devices is also incredibly steep. To solve these battery challenges, it’s best to design with a low power connectivity solution using a wireless technology with a large deployment base, such as Bluetooth® technology.

Bluetooth technology is the ideal wireless platform for low data rate, long range applications, which is the category most IoT solutions represent. As engineers continue to push the envelope of low-power designs and energy harvesting, more devices and applications will benefit from significantly longer battery life and battery-free operation. Utilizing Bluetooth technology, in combination with advanced techniques such as On-Demand Wake-Up and Lowest Power Radio, can enable 10 to 100 times lower power consumption for the average IoT device. So, what does this mean for the future of battery-powered Bluetooth devices?

The Bluetooth 5.0 wireless communication standard, coupled with ultra-low-power functionality, allows devices to consume very small amounts of energy. As a result of very low power connectivity solutions, the ability to harvest even modest amounts of energy from multiple sources such as radio frequency (RF), light, motion, and heat makes energy harvesting viable. Bluetooth powered devices can do this while still being able to provide the range and coverage equivalent to Wi-Fi. This means that for many IoT applications, power consumption can be lower than the harvestable energy, making the concepts of “forever-battery” and “battery-free” IoT more than just a dream but an inevitability.

The rise of 5G will also increase the demand for Bluetooth devices such as beacons, asset tracking, sensing, tags, and locating. We’ll see a growing demand for “battery-free” Bluetooth devices in many industries including smart homes, industry 4.0, smart cities, healthcare, and retail. The ability to run on batteries or battery free, without the need for any cords, for the life of the solution and wireless data enables these devices to have “forever battery” life. 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. 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.

Consumer applications like remote controls, home automation devices, wearables, personal tracking devices, keyboards, and more, relieve the pain point for consumers of changing batteries often due to low power Bluetooth and energy harvesting techniques. Industrial and enterprise applications like asset tracking, indoor locating, beacons, industrial automation sensors, tire pressure monitors, and electronic shelf labels also reduce the cost of lifetime ownership by reducing the maintenance costs of replacing the batteries or the complete solution in some cases. In case of critical applications like industrial sensors or medical applications, the reliability of the solution (due to longer or “forever battery” life) greatly reduces the risk of failure.

Low power consumption capabilities and energy harvesting technologies represent exciting developments to significantly improve battery life for IoT devices. With the addition of the latest Bluetooth 5.0 technology, these devices can enjoy “forever battery” life or will not require batteries at all, unlocking new possibilities for the IoT. As Bluetooth technology continues to advance from the latest Bluetooth 5.0 standard to 5.1 and on to 5.2, we’ll see endless possibilities open up for a more sustainable smart device and IoT ecosystem that is no longer reliant on batteries and is much more cost-efficient.

 

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