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A Future Of IoT That Is Battery-Less

A Future Of IoT That Is Battery-Less

  • The new sensors can be used at scale and cost less to operate than the battery-powered devices.

In 2012, IBM took everyone by surprise when they forecasted that there will be 1 trillion connected devices by 2015. However, the 1 trillion was not breached in 2015. Around the same year, MIT graduates Ben Calhoun and Dave Wentzloff co-founded Everactive. Calhoun and Wentzloff worked together in MIT’s Anantha Chandrakasan’s research group on ultra-low-power circuits. While others tried to wrap their heads around bloated IoT predictions, Calhoun and Wentzloff recognized the nearly impossible task of managing 1 trillion devices. IoT devices require batteries to sustain the sensors to collect, send, and analyze data. Understanding the problem at hand that 1 trillion devices would pose the issue of providing 1 trillion batteries, Ben and Dave started with a vision to get rid of battery-driven IoT devices.

According to Gartner, more than 65% of enterprises (up from 30% today) will adopt IoT products by 2020. According to Everactive, powering 1 trillion IoT devices would require replacing 274 million batteries every day, assuming those batteries all reach their total 10-year life expectancies, which is not feasible. IDTechEx makes the case in a recent report regarding the drawbacks of billions of battery-powered devices, arguing that it could undermine up to 80% of the Internet of Things (IoT) potential.

A typical mid-sized factory can mount around 10,000 industrial IoT devices to monitor temperature, air quality, report on your steam traps, HVAC systems, and other vital infrastructure. It would become highly impossible to change batteries every year considering the lifespan of the battery and the type of device, which could cost thousands of dollars in replacement, time and effort. Not only is battery capacity constrained, existing wireless networking technology is also an issue.The continuous cloud-based analytics aren’t possible when powered only by batteries. In order to respond to the specific needs of a manufacturing plant and a 1 trillion-node world, there is a need for high density sensor networks that can communicate at long range in difficult-to-communicate environments.

Everactive’s solution

Steam trap monitoring (Source: Everactive)

To resolve the battery problem Everactive came up with ultra-low-power integrated circuits to form a new  low-power wireless networking. It is the same technology that Calhoun and Wentzloff researched  while they were graduate students at the Institute. The same fields in which they had previously worked as faculty members at their undergraduate alma mater, the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan, were now the focus of their entire professional lives.

While low-power digital systems were the focus of Calhoun’s research group , Wentzloff’s group explored low-power communication. With these novel circuit designs and wireless communication breakthroughs, Everactive’s end-to-end solutions were able to solely power its Eversensors using renewable energy harvested from the environment.  They have released their first product which is a steam trap monitor. At small factories, it’s likely that there are hundreds of these mechanisms. Large oil and chemical refineries, on the other hand, are more likely to have thousands of these mechanisms. Steam is still in use in many application verticals and marketing segments due to its capability to transport large amounts of energy over large distances. But it also comes with huge risks like wasted energy in case of failure, costly downtime, or even dangerous explosions . It’s not that simple to keep tabs on thousands of steam traps to see if they are malfunctioning. According to Wentzloff: “some steam traps are situated on the ground, while others are found two or three stories up.” Getting to them can be difficult. That is why manual inspection becomes an issue.

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The company claims that their sensors can be used at scale and cost less to operate than the battery-powered devices.To deliver an out-of-the-box service, the company has developed the requisite networking and cloud software. The Evercloud turns new data into high-value, operational insights on the other end of its system.

Everactive solution can be used for a real-time evaluation of the state of the system on every Steam Trap in a steam distribution network. For this reason, leading players in the industry such as Armstrong International, the world’s second-largest steam trap company, chose to partner with Everactive. For Everactive the industrial space is just the start. Everactive is looking to dip their toes in consumer electronics like  wearables as well as exploring  logistics in the near future. With the addition to its next generation of sensors of localisation technology, Everactive can help track assets worldwide. Due to the pandemic companies are reviewing the way they function and operate. With reduced staff, particularly in factory environments where essential products are built for the economy, understanding what happens in places which are not easily accessible becomes even more important.Everactive intends to satisfy this requirement by making all-around remote monitoring possible in the driving of self-powered solutions.

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