Top 4 reasons to use energy harvesting for your IoT devices

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Did you know that reports are estimating that there will be over 25,4 billion IoT devices in the world by 2030? A few big questions are immediately asked by any person hearing these numbers: How will the IoT devices be powered? Is there anyway that we can replace the usage of batteries? 

All valid questions! Let us guide you through the top 4 reasons to use energy harvesting for your IoT devices.

Battery durability vs maximising performance

All IoT solution developers have faced the challenge of compromising quality and performance for battery durability. E.g. reducing the quality of the data that is being collected, or simply reducing how often the customers receives that data is a very normal compromise within IoT development. If this is not performed properly, the battery will run out of power to quickly and a costly battery change will be needed.

But, will the use of energy harvesting solve these issues and bring you unlimited update rate and amazing data quality? No. Stating something else would be a lie. But, when energy harvesting is correctly implemented it unleashes the possibility of maximising performance in relation to how much energy that is being harvested. And you do not have to think about when a battery should be replaced as most energy harvesting technologies are far more durable than the electronic components that are included in the IoT device itself. It is simply a win-win-situation for the end user

Finding the right battery for your specific application

One could imagine that finding the right battery would be a simple task as they are so widely available but the truth is that it is actually quite hard. There are more suppliers than you could imagine, and they offer everything from standard batteries for general applications to very specific batteries for challenging environments. Picking the right one is quite tricky as you have to take aspects as operating temperature, leakage rates, security aspects and max discharge currents into consideration to get the right version for your application. 

Is batteries a viable approach in terms of economics and sustainability?

Batteries use rare earth metals. And exploration of rare earth metals is not the cleanest and most sustainable thing to do. So if we are to reach levels 25 billion IoT devices by 2030 the question has to be asked: is it really viable to use ONLY batteries to power all of these devices? The answer is as obvious as it is simple: No, we need alternate power sources. 

To emphasise this further, lets create a simple example:

Mining Company A has decided to install a wireless monitoring system power by batteries to monitor their machines. They have 5000 machines across all their sites and each machine requires 3 individual sensor nodes, a total of 15 000 units. 

Let us assume that each of these 15 000 batteries will last for 3 years (optimistic in the mining industry due to temperature, connectivity issues, etc). And let us assume that these are installed continuously for 3 years so the need for replacement will occur spread out over time. 

This means that 13,7 batteries needs to replaced per day (15 000 / (365*3)). Assuming that each battery replacement takes 15 minutes due to the environment, a worker has to spend 205,5 minutes per day (3,5 hours) to replace batteries. Over three years, this employee will have spent a total of 160 days (!!!) replacing batteries. Imagine that the cost of this worker is 25 € per hour (excluding cost of batteries), the cost of battery replacements will be 32 000 €. A staggering number that speaks for itself. And remember that the sensors will most likely last for 10-15 years, meaning that the true cost of replacements will be much higher. 

Conclusion

The conclusion seems logical and simple: batteries are in some cases a brilliant solutions, but given the rapid expansion of the Internet of Things it is clear that alternative power sources are needed. Energy harvesting, in different forms and shapes, is here to stay.