IDTechEx analysts asked a few questions to some of the presenters at the IDTechEx conferences on Energy Harvesting and IoT coming up on 28-29 April in Berlin, Germany - www.IDTechEx.com/Europe. Some very interesting insight on the advent of these emerging technologies were offered by Richards Sims, representing The Technology Partnership, Mazhar Bari representing Science Technology Research Partners and Renaud di Francesco from SONY Europe.
Question 1: What is, in your opinion the most important innovations and/or applications enabled due to the advent of energy harvesting and the IoT in the market segments that your company serves?
Mazhar Bari, STREP: The primary application of energy harvesting is the enabling of autarky in sensor applications. The autonomous operation of sensor technologies driven by photovoltaic and thermoelectric energy harvesting is assisting the current revolution in wireless enabled sensors, cloud storage, big data and data analytics. The ultra-wide scale deployment of these sensors in industrial automation and environmental monitoring makes it uneconomical to rely on frequent battery change out for continuous operation making these sensor systems more reliant on energy harvesting.
Richard Sims - TTP: I feel that applications around energy management are an important sector at the moment. This ranges from reducing gas consumption in the home to monitoring and dimming street lighting. With pressures on natural resources and the growing population we have to be much smarter around power consumption, as realistically people are going to be reluctant to reduce their standard of living.
We also have on-going programmes in data analytics ('big' data). Predictive fault analysis is enabled by the IoT: for example - can we predict the failure of critical infrastructure (elevators, pumps, electricity sub-stations) before they occur? This is all enabled by the ability to collect large amounts of data from low cost sensing platforms.
Question 2: What are the most significant challenges that the Internet of Things is currently facing that is slowing down further market adoption, which is as a result, limiting further proliferation?
Renaud di Francesco, SONY Europe: Device connectivity over networks has been addressed, the challenge is now on applications and within them the semantics of the data collected and used. Such data could have top down aspects as for automation and control (SCADA), and bottom-up aspects as in the wearable use cases.
Question 3: And how about energy harvesting?
Mazhar Bari, STREP: The adoption of energy harvesting is an evolutionary process and adoption is growing as experience in the deployment of these systems grows. Currently there is a lot of activity in the monitoring of machine attributes (wear/performance) which relies on clip on energy harvesting sensors that are connected to the cloud. One example is the semi-conductor industry where many leading companies are currently deploying low power wireless chip sets in an energy harvesting role to monitor machine performance in all their production lines worldwide to develop a predictive maintenance strategy to increase the up time of these machines. (TE and PV are the most popular here with some kinetic systems also being deployed.)
Question 4: Finally, what is the most significant recent innovation in the Internet of Things that could potentially be a 'game changer'?
Richard Sims - TTP: Smart City applications are obviously a focus for TTP based around our development activities with Mayflower on their Smart Lighting System. The realization that the lighting network can be utilized as a back-bone for low cost, low power and low bandwidth applications in the city is a game changer in our opinion. It enables cities to roll out an IoT network optimized for Smart City applications justified by the savings in electricity and maintenance costs alone. Once installed this network can then be utilized for diverse applications such as parking, traffic, environmental monitoring, structure condition monitoring.
Renaud di Francesco, SONY Europe: Secure data fluidity across networks and environments.