Digital Transformation And its Role In IoT Sustainability Through Energy Harvesting

October 04, 2022

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Digital Transformation And its Role In IoT Sustainability Through Energy Harvesting

With the world undoubtedly facing many vast environmental and ecological challenges, we must find a way to use alternatives such as energy-efficient low-power computation techniques. To minimize the energy demands of IoT devices, however, the use of energy harvesting techniques has gained much prominence.

On a grander scale, fields with solar cells generating energy from wind turbines have long dominated the energy generation space. On a smaller scale, this process is called "energy harvesting," which involves harvesting energy from four different sources:

  • Light: Incoming sunlight in a room
  • Electromagnetic field: A contactless coil in a cage clamp
  • Motion: Moving machine parts and the rotary motion of a handle
  • Temperature differences: Boiler and the environment and day and night variations in radiator pipes

The outcome is enough to power a wireless sensor and exchange data amongst devices through radio. The type of energy generation and the proportional power yield best determine the sensor apps to use.

How Digital Transformation Contributes to IIoT Sustainability Through Energy Harvesting

Sustainability goals are the critical driver of business value and company credibility. We cannot help but agree that IoT solutions play an incredibly important role in helping enterprises achieve safe and smart operations - and that is all because of digital transformation.

Although there is no single agreed digital transformation definition, it essentially means adapting to digital technologies such as AI and ML, which in this case is IoT.

In the manufacturing sector, particularly, IIoT enables significantly more flexible, efficient, and individualized production. On the other hand, energy harvesting can optimize the battery life using low-power radio communications protocols.

In the following section, we will study five exceptional cases that tell us what role digital transformation plays in the IoT landscape through energy harvesting:

1. Optimal cost benefits

With the help of energy harvesting technology, radio sensors do not need battery power or cables - both of which are low maintenance and environmentally friendly. Do you know how much replacing a single battery usually costs? $300 on average!

Even if money is not a concern and replacing the battery is quick, traveling to the site, locating the sensor, changing the battery, and testing the device is tedious and dramatically increases labor costs. Moreover, with the copper rates rising and its harmful components posing a serious safety problem, considering resource-saving is also necessary for the environment.

That is why wireless energy harvesting sensors have become a sensible option from a financial perspective and if you account for the environmental factors.

2. Quality control sensors

Quality monitoring controls the entire production process and ensures the product's desired properties are based on defined parameters. For instance, one must appropriately monitor process factors such as temperature and environmental factors such as humidity and air quality.

Automated monitoring systems require sensor-generated data. However, to achieve this, the sensors must seamlessly fit within the existing production processes - without undergoing training or incurring additional expenses in the said production. You must agree that low maintenance and self-powered sensors offer the best advantages possible.

3. In-operation energy-saving prowess

Industrial production uses a very important component, i.e., IoT sensors. For example, they can be used for condition-based maintenance or process or quality monitoring. You see, the range of IoT apps is vast, and so is the use of corresponding wireless sensors.

By combining local energy converters with energy-saving radio, maintenance-free sensors can be mounted directly on moving parts or in airtight environments (such as when measuring the temperature of mechanical components, gasses, or liquids).

4. A fresh set of energy storage models

When you add energy harvesting to the mix, you get support from new models of energy storage, and use and extend the life of the batteries or cut the use of batteries altogether.

Now, the most fundamental deployments utilize energy harvesting to power the device when energy is readily available and go back to using a standard battery when any harvested energy is exhausted.

Depending on the solution, its renewable energy needs, and the power of the energy harvesting technique, a single battery can last a lifetime of the device - especially if it is wireless.

That is where Bluetooth technology can make all the difference. Its super low power technology keeps the overall device power guzzling habit on the down-low for applications using harvested light, heat, or motion. It offers many standards-driven wireless solutions.

Alternatively, the energy harvested can also be used for recharging the battery to ensure operations during extended periods even when the harvested energy is unavailable. Devices where they find a streamlined and consistent flow of harvested energy can function in an entirely maintenance-free environment with this configuration.

5. Condition-based maintenance via battery-free sensors

Besides the product, machines must be monitored to ensure a smooth production process because they are prone to wear n tear. It will help considerably if there is a way to identify problems early on in those machines and take appropriate measures for continuous quality assurance and minimized production downtime.

A fundamental problem when it comes to planning maintenance is calculating the intervals between every maintenance cycle. If it is short, it would not be possible to identify any flaws, thereby costing unnecessary expenses to the company.

And if the interval is too long, the machine can break down, causing downtime and hampering the user experience. Moreover, every maintenance round costs highly for idle and personnel machines. The excellent news is that it can gain valuable insights by studying a few parameters.

For instance, wireless temperature sensors play a massive role in measurement processes. On the other hand, humidity sensors monitor whether water is leaking. Such sensors also ensure consistent air quality.

That is the reason why wireless energy harvesting sensors are suitable for a range of industrial apps. They are low maintenance, cheap to install, and have all the great features you would need to maintain high standards in the Industry 4.0 ecosystem.

Controlled Industrial Energy Harvesting with Bluetooth 5.0

The said technique can offer battery-free operation for connected devices. It is the process of fetching and storing small quantities of energy from external sources such as motion, thermal, and photovoltaic.

The energy converts as a supplement to or in place of the battery power. Previously, installing battery-free solutions using energy harvesting made sense only for short-range IoT apps.

However, combining Bluetooth 5.0 with energy harvesting techniques is helping companies save time and money by not having to replace the batteries of their IoT devices. This also decreases the overall cost of ownership of the systems completely.

Four Critical Industries for Energy Harvesting

The benefits of energy harvesting are not restricted to one industry. It has carved a niche for itself by providing an abundance of apps with enough power to render batteries irrelevant in the following business verticals:

1. Retail

With energy harvesting in place, retailers can install Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs) and other digital signage, allowing managers to apply inventory adjustments and price changes with just a few changes. They also do not have to worry about replacing batteries or taking the risk of downtime. Retailers can save a ton of money - otherwise spent on maintenance and repairs of batteries via energy harvesting.

2. Hospitality

Hotels find great use in IoT solutions. For instance, door card readers are battery-powered and ensure operating during a power outage. The energy harvesting technique minimizes the total cost of ownership and maintenance times besides taking forward a hotel's green initiatives.

3. Smart cities

Many cities worldwide are on a mission to go "smart." IoT solutions using sensors can monitor humidity, air quality, temperature, and so on. IoT devices can collect and analyze data to improve infrastructure and public services.

With energy harvesting, cities can potentially save enormous battery replacement costs and labor expenses. The saved money can be better allocated to fund other projects such as public land, education, and healthcare.

Moreover, IoT apps, when located in hard-to-reach areas, also need to have their batteries replaced. Through energy harvesting, this problem also gets resolved.

4. Smart building

From light switches and door locks, there are many ways to turn any building into a smart building. While these smart apps and devices can help buildings become more efficient, the entire IoT ecosystem requires batteries to run.

Can you imagine the cost of replacing the batteries periodically? That is a lot of money for a "smart building." Moreover, depleted batteries can also cause minor inconvenience. If the battery in an IoT-powered thermostat is exhausted, regulating room temperature will become impossible.

What if a carbon monoxide sensor stops working? That poses a threat to the people. Thanks to energy harvesting technology, it can significantly extend battery life and enable operation without any battery at all - totally avoiding some unwanted situations!

The "Bright" Future of Industrial Energy Harvesting and IoT-Connected Devices

Undoubtedly, we will see an increasing number of establishments tapping on integrated energy harvested capabilities to become more environmentally responsible and sustainable. The excellent news is devices with energy harvesting also save companies from the hassle of expensive battery maintenance and replacement.

That is a boon since the cost of maintaining IIoT devices can add up rather quickly if companies use traditional battery-operated gadgets that need to be changed frequently. If energy harvesting is the method through which we can optimize our usage, then that is the way to go.

The combination of cost savings and "going green" is a massive win-win for the companies that showcase how energy harvesting is transforming the world for the better.

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