The other day, EETimes reported on ARM’s efforts towards IoT chip designs powered by energy harvesting. As the most IoT savvy journalist/podcaster on this beat, Stacey Higgenbotham’s commentary at GigaOM is worthwhile: “If we’re going to embed chips into roads, bury them in fields and even slap them on produce at the grocery store, we’re going to have to dump the battery.”
While we all wait breathlessly for radically better battery and capacitor tech, any power reduction in processors is a big plus. But the real action is probably still in the radio — or radio-ish-com-thing putting the data out to the world. In another article, Stacey reports: “The researchers [at the Univ. of Washington] have found a way to use existing radio waves (from cellular, TV or existing Wi-Fi networks) to bounce messages from one device to another without requiring a power source. They call it ambient backscatter, and liken it to Morse code.”
Here at Scante, we focus on the web and mobile interfaces manufacturers, resellers, and service companies need to integrate IoT into their business models. You wouldn’t think chip design and ultra-low power RF schemes would be on our radar. But Tom and I have led interesting lives, including a bout at an advanced RF hardware startup that left us bruised and weary. These are hard technologies to fund and develop, not to mention commercialize. Defense applications have been very nearly the sole funding source at early stages. As VC and corporate investors become more cognizant of the opportunities around IoT, the whole thing ought to get easier.
IoT desperately needs mass produced, chip scale sensors, low power comms, and any processing we can get – all for insanely low prices. Every durable manufactured product, and the vast majority of everything else, needs sensors and connectivity. The benefits on practically every front can hardly be overstated. When you talk to consumer durables OEMs, they’re game — they’re actively actively pursuing connected products. Every step toward low cost, low power sensors and comms bring the big waves of IoT adoption closer.