Can the Internet of Things Drive Adoption of Energy Harvesters?

January 27, 2014 // By Raghu Das, CEO, IDTechEx
A report from industry analysts IDTechEx, “Energy Harvesting and Storage for Electronic Devices 2014-2024” predicts that the energy harvesting market will reach a value of $596million in 2018, up from $163million in 2014.

IDTechEx’ CEO writes; “The Internet of Things adds connectivity to things. It is a broad term referring to applications as diverse as internet connected vehicles to consumer electronics such as smart phones. However, the edge of the Internet of Things network will consist of simpler sensors and wireless devices that provide, among other things, the identification of objects, sensing, control and automation. The simplest, passive RF devices, with relatively short range, will potentially be the highest volume of all devices and come in at the lowest price points. Adding power to these devices enables more functionality such as sensing, mesh networking and automated control.

“However, the return on investment of many wireless sensors in different applications is dependent in part on the lifetime of the device - which is most usually a function of the battery lifetime. A device lasting ten years versus two has a dramatic change on the ROI calculation, particularly if these sensors are embedded in devices adding significant labour cost for battery replenishment.

“This is where energy harvesters can help, however, there are several challenges moving these to market. The first is buyers buying on cost for the short term. The cost of a primary battery is less than that of an energy harvester and associated interfacing electronics. Over the life of the energy harvested powered device the energy harvester version may be cheaper, but buyers may be incentivised by low upfront cost without taking into account the long term costs. Then there are batteries which last for longer periods of time, particularly as the energy requirements of circuitry falls. However, these batteries usually command a premium price.

“Some of these issues can be addressed in a few ways. Lack of end user knowledge about the capabilities of energy harvesting technologies and cost over time have to be addressed. There is a need for clear case studies of energy harvesting powered wireless sensors, showing payback versus