Energy harvesting technology will be a game changer for countless industries, offering the potential to bring forever battery life to connected devices. Even better, energy harvesting can provide certain applications with enough power that batteries aren’t needed at all. Just imagine how many batteries that would save from going into landfills! Not to mention the cost savings for companies. After all, the maintenance costs of replacing batteries in large deployments adds up fast.
First, a quick primer on energy harvesting technology. There are several popular methods of energy harvesting, including photovoltaic/solar, radio frequency (RF), mechanical (motion) and thermal. Atmosic’s Bluetooth® 5 wirelessM3 solution combines energy harvesting technology with our Lowest Power Radio and On-demand Wakeup technologies to deliver 10 to 100 times lower power than competitive solutions. Those power savings mean that savvy OEMs can design Bluetooth 5 products that readily sustain operation for the life of a device – without a battery or with a “forever battery” that automatically recharges for the life of the Internet of Things (IoT) device.
What’s great about energy harvesting technology is how it’s ideal for a wide range of connected devices in many different industries. Here are the top 10 industries where energy harvesting technology promises to make a big impact over the next decade:
- Consumer Electronics: Consider all of the different connected devices you have in your home. Many of these devices need to be charged often, while others use batteries that need to be changed anywhere from every few months to every few years. Now think about how nice it would be if your smart watches, hearables, remotes, keyboards and other Bluetooth 5 connected devices would run for the entire lifetime of the device – no more remotes dying right when you’re watching the big game.
- Entertainment: Theme parks offer fun for the whole family, but it can often be stressful navigating these big, crowded attractions. Using your smartphone’s GPS might be helpful on the road, but it’s often little help at amusement parks. This is doubly true for trying to navigate any places that are indoors. In the future we’ll see more theme parks adopt Bluetooth 5 locationing beacons to help solve this problem. These beacons are able to send signals to your smartphone. When used with a theme park’s dedicated app, you can get more precise location information so you can focus on having fun. With some theme parks being as large as cities, that means a lot of batteries saved from going into landfills and big cost savings that theme parks can reinvest into exciting new attractions.
- Healthcare: A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is one type of healthcare wearable that’s perfect for energy harvesting technology. While traditional CGMs need to be charged regularly since they are in constant use, energy harvesting means that users no longer have to worry about constantly charging their CGMs. Plus, Bluetooth 5 wireless solutions open up the possibility for remote monitoring, with four times the range of previous Bluetooth generations. This means that doctors can more easily monitor their patients, or parents can monitor their children, anytime, anywhere via a browser or smartphone application.
- Hospitality: Most hotels use door card readers that are battery-powered. While this offers a number of advantages (such as the ability to operate even during a power outage), replacing batteries in the hundreds or even thousands of door card readers in a hotel is extremely time intensive and expensive. Using Bluetooth 5 devices with energy harvesting technology cuts down on maintenance time and total cost of ownership, in addition to furthering hotels’ green initiatives.
- Travel: Today contact tracing wearables are being used across different industries to help monitor the spread of COVID-19 and keep people safe. Even as vaccines start being rolled out, these devices will continue to be used for a few years, especially in the travel industry. Take cruise ships, for example. COVID-19 tracing wearables will make it much easier for cruise ships to track any instances of COVID-19 exposure. Furthermore, with Bluetooth 5 these systems will be able to work even when cruise ships are in areas where there’s no cell service. These wearables would also give cruise ships the ability to know exactly where passengers are in the event of an emergency situation.
- Manufacturing and fulfillment: Many manufacturing and fulfillment centers use asset trackers such as small beacons to help keep track of equipment and shipping goods. These asset trackers help streamline operations and ensure items don’t get lost, meaning that it’s essential that they work at all times. Using Bluetooth 5 asset trackers with energy harvesting technology is saving companies time and money by not having to replace batteries regularly, decreasing overall cost of ownership of these systems. In the future we’ll also see more facilities using robotics that have integrated energy harvesting capabilities.
- Retail: Paper tags will soon become a thing of the past as retailers turn to programmable electronic shelf labels (ESLs) and other digital signage. One big benefit of electric signage is that updates can automatically be applied across all products, but the downside is that many of these devices are battery-operated, creating a headache when it comes time to swap out the batteries for every ESL in a store. Controlled energy harvesting enables retailers to set up Bluetooth 5 ESLs effortlessly, without worrying about maintenance time down the road – in addition to the cost savings of not having to constantly replace batteries.
- Sports: Like theme parks, locationing devices are already popular in sports stadiums and will continue to become more popular as more venues turn to energy harvesting solutions. Electronic badges, or eBadges, are another great example. Sports stadiums already rely on eBadges to allow workers and players to access different parts of their facilities. As these sports centers update their existing systems, they will increasingly turn to Bluetooth 5 eBadges with energy harvesting technology.
- Smart Cities: Over the past few years, there has been a lot hype and excitement around smart city solutions like sensors that can monitor temperature, humidity, air quality, the presence of gas, etc. These metrics help companies to run their facilities more efficiently and safely, and allows cities to make more informed decisions about how to mitigate quality of life issues. Today most of these sensors run on batteries so it’s no surprise that Bluetooth 5 sensors with energy harvesting technology will become increasingly popular. Plus, the cost savings will allow cities to allocate funds to the things that need it most, like education and healthcare.
- Transportation: Car accessories and infotainment devices are also prime targets for energy harvesting technology. Key fobs, for example, need their batteries changed every few years. While changing one every few years might not sound so bad, the consequences of your key fob dying and leaving you stranded makes energy harvesting technology sound a lot more appealing. Plus, with over a billion cars on the road globally, reducing battery usage in these devices – with energy harvesting, Bluetooth 5 and other cutting-edge technologies – will make a huge difference.
It’s exciting to see the increasing adoption of Bluetooth 5 energy harvesting solutions and how they are benefiting the environment while also saving companies time and money. And more importantly – in the case of contact tracing wearables which can be used in just about any industry – keeping people safe. We are proud to be helping companies reduce battery usage and look forward to the day that the IoT is completely battery-free.