IDTechEx recently contacted some of the most prominent potential users of energy harvesting, wireless sensor and wireless sensor networks, trying to gauge the state of the technology, as well as the barriers for adoption that might delay further implementations in different verticals. The questions were simple, although the answers rarely are.
Question 1: Barrier for adoption
Given the specific market segment you operate in, what do you believe is the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of further adoption of energy harvesting and wireless sensor networks technologies?
Hans Symanczik of Kieback&Peter said to IDTechEx: "Each energy harvesting technology has some limitations today. What the end user wants is a system which is maintenance free. That could include that the system contains for example a back-up battery versus a complete energy harvesting approach. Of course another obstacle as always for innovative solutions is the price. As long as the ROI of energy harvesting products is in the range of 5 to 8 years people will probably invest in cheaper things. Lifetime costs is something which is difficult to understand and calculate for many people".
Edward Taylor, of Sentec Ltd. in the UK had a similar view: "To frame the current state of the market as 'blocked by obstacles' is to re-cast 'opportunities for innovation'. So the presence of 'good enough' products from entrenched suppliers and a lack of cross fertilisation from successful products into areas where there are unmet needs and unexploited opportunities is an obstacle to EH/WSN adoption." And he continued, highlighting the complexities of calculating ROIs:
"Another way of looking at it is a lack of vision from end customers, and the hidden costs which these technologies can address. No-one knows how many 'truck rolls' to check infrastructure, install wires, replace batteries we could eliminate, with the attendant issues and changes".
In some cases, integrators have also voiced concerns about data security. The concern there, as expressed by system integrator customers, is that there would be a way in for outsiders to enter the company network or to see data that should not be seen. That type of issue becomes critical as the data recorded or transferred becomes more and more crucial for safe, reliable operation.
Question 2: Best energy harvesting options
Out of all energy harvesting technologies available today, which one/which ones do you feel would serve best the needs and requirements of your industry?
Ed Taylor commented on the technologies that he feels are mature enough for immediate deployment and highlighted the need for cost effective solutions. : "In the end markets which our customers serve, which encompass all forms of metering, the smart grid, plus industrial and consumer products we need to deploy technologies which are cost competitive. For this, magnetic technologies first, followed by micro-scale PV are our go-to options for universal power sources".
But it's not just electromagnetic and solar harvesters that are important, the rise of other types of technologies is acknowledged by integrators and end users alike, with thermoelectric energy harvesting becoming one of the more researched technologies that will be utilised in future deployments.
Interoperability and ease of integration is key, as Hans Symanczik pointed out: "As standard, we could add other products from other manufacturers as an addendum to our own product portfolio. The interoperability which comes through the standardization helps us. System integration has become an essential core competence in our business".
Question 3: Next biggest market for energy harvesting and WSN
After the successful deployments of energy harvesting and WSN in building infrastructure projects, which do you feel would be the next market that will grow and see the benefit of EH/WSN?
Ed Taylor commented: "The commercial building market has a natural follower market in the consumer home market, to be specific Home Energy Management. We have already seen multiple examples of technology crossover from commercial to consumer scale. I think we'll see more offerings and take up in the home. For wireless sensor networks, we'll also continue to see new models in infrastructure monitoring (roads, rail and structures)".
Hans Symanczik added:// "What works today in commercial buildings will probably migrate in the near future to residential buildings. Metering becomes an important issue as well. All kinds of information will be monitored to detect the waste of energy and to optimize our behaviour. Monitoring temperatures in rooms and electrical consumption in separate zones is probably not far away in the residential area"~.
To hear more from Kieback&Peter and Sentec, as well as presentations from many other companies both developing and adopting energy harvesting and WSN solutions including Connode, Shell, GE Energy, ABB and many others, join us in Berlin on 17-18 April for Energy Harvesting & Storage and Wireless Sensor Networks & RTLS - www.IDTechEx.com/EH/Agenda
For more information contact Corinne Jennings at, c.jennings@IDTechEx.com or Tel: +44 (0)1223 813703