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Kathleen Martin

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This is a good time to be excited about wireless technology that doesn’t require batteries. As a flush of recent news proves, energy-harvesting technology is poised to move from pilot applications to scaled out use in the real world in the coming year.
If we want to deploy trillions of connected sensors, we have to dump batteries. After all, building batteries for the IoT is limiting: They require chemicals to manufacture, people to change them, and are ultimately a toxic form of waste inside an obsolete product. Thankfully, several startups are now reaching production deployments of their technology, proving that energy harvesting is possible while providing architectures to make it work.
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This sensor from Everactive is part of a steam trap monitoring service that runs using harvested energy. Image courtesy of Everactive.
First up is 10-year-old Everactive (formerly known as PsiKick), which has built a system of sensors that harvest their own energy to track vibration or temperature changes. It recently placed those sensors in 12 Anheuser-Busch breweries, on steam traps used for making beer. The sensors use the heat generated by the steam to monitor how well the steam traps are performing.
It’s the largest deployment of Everactive’s sensors to date, and while the beer maker has only put the sensors on a quarter of its steam traps, doing so has already helped it save 7,561 tons of carbon. The amount of energy saved is about 1.2% of its overall energy use, but every little bit helps.
Notably, the reason this application became a real-world use case was because Everactive’s sensors don’t require ongoing battery changes. According to Barkley Edison, a steam systems subject matter expert with Anheuser-Busch, the brewer spent the last 10 years searching for a steam trap-monitoring product before finding Everactive’s sensors. In a case study for Everactive, he said it can cost $500-$1,000 to replace a single battery, and since a single plant may have hundreds of steam traps, those costs are untenable.
Everactive’s sensors are now deployed in production environments at scale, but other energy-harvesting sensor makers are still gearing up for scale. Among them is Wiliot, which this week announced a partnership program that will bring its energy-harvesting, stamp-sized Bluetooth tags to more industries. The move is part of an overall shift in strategy for Wiliot, from selling its tags to letting other companies manufacture and sell them. Wiliot, meanwhile, now makes money selling cloud services to connect the tags.
Continue reading: https://staceyoniot.com/the-battery-free-iot-revolution-is-here/
 

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