How Bluetooth and Energy Harvesting Can Make Smart Buildings Even Smarter

For a long time, building management systems (BMS) have played a central role in energy management across many commercial and industrial facilities. These systems have become increasingly obsolete as new smart building applications have made it possible to more accurately and efficiently monitor building operations. This blog will explore how these Bluetooth-based smart buildings applications are changing the industry.

 

When deploying connected systems, Wi-Fi is typically best suited for high throughput applications, but Bluetooth is ideal for devices transmitting smaller amounts of information, or ones that transmit information intermittently. Bluetooth technology has expanded its scope of use from consumer devices (like smart speakers and wearables) to a wide variety of sensor-based smart building applications, including those used for tracking temperature, humidity, light levels and security.

 

Some smart building applications are geared towards improving sustainability and cutting down on energy costs. IoT platforms can be used to monitor the energy consumption patterns within a building, and analyze the data to produce targeted recommendations for reducing energy use. Sensors can monitor a facility around the clock and provide insight into how and when the facility uses energy. This smart building data can be used to increase efficiency and strategically reduce overall consumption for optimal building operations.

 

Sensors can also be utilized to monitor the well-being of a building or facility with increased visibility. For example, water leak detectors help notify build owners about early-stage pipe failures and will activate valve shut-down to prevent severe water damage. Additionally, temperature and vibration metrics of critical assets – such as an elevator – can reveal potential or ongoing issues and flag the need for inspection. When paired with system analytics, sensor inputs on inclination, crack formation and humidity exposure can help monitor the structural integrity of a building.

 

Door card readers and electronic badges (eBadges) are also used often in smart buildings, along with locationing beacons which can help people navigate indoors. Since a smartphone’s GPS isn’t very helpful for navigating around a large facility, some buildings take advantage of indoor locationing beacons based on Bluetooth 5.0 to send information to a user’s smartphone so they know exactly where they are. Another popular use case is automated lighting systems that use sensors to detect movement and turn the lights on or off, saving electricity when a room isn’t occupied.

 

While these smart applications can help companies to operate more efficiently, many smart devices still require batteries. Imagine thousands or tens of thousands of various edge connected battery powered devices in a large building. The costs of replacing batteries can add up quickly, and harmful materials can leech into the environment when batteries are improperly thrown out. In some cases, batteries dying is a minor inconvenience, like if your smart thermostat goes out; however, in other cases it could be much more serious – for example, if a carbon monoxide sensor stops working. Luckily, over the past few years there have been some new technologies that are helping to significantly extend the battery life of connected devices, and even enable some to operate without any batteries at all.

 

One way that connected devices can prolong battery life is with a low power radio implementation that supports the latest Bluetooth 5.0 standard. The Bluetooth 5.0 platform has four times the range, two times the speed and eight times the bandwidth than that of its predecessors.

 

Another approach to reducing power consumption is to leverage functions like low-power radio and on-demand wakeup. Low-power radio technology is designed to enable connected devices to operate with minimal power, maximizing battery life. On-demand wakeup technology allows devices to listen for incoming transmissions (such as sounds) while remaining in a very low power state.

 

Atmosic’s M2 and M3 Series technologies can leverage many sources of power – RF, thermal, light and mechanical – to harvest energy for the growing number of connected devices. This extends battery life significantly or eliminates the need of batteries altogether, while also reducing the financial and environmental impact that comes with constantly replacing batteries.

 

Traditional office and commercial spaces are changing as IoT applications and connected devices are presenting new opportunities for operating, monitoring and servicing facilities. As the number of IoT and smart building applications continues to grow, it is our mission to create battery-free solutions to support this new era of connectivity in a more sustainable way.

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