Energy harvesting is otherwise known as power harvesting or energy scavenging. It is the use of ambient energy to power small electronic or electrical devices. That includes photovoltaics, thermovoltaics, piezoelectrics and electrodynamics, among other options, which are now being used in a wide variety of applications. Whether you are familiar with the 'voltaics, 'electrics or 'namics, this technology has come to a head, as more efficient energy gathering and storage are sufficiently affordable now. From wind up laptops for Africa, wireless light switches working from the power of your finger, and wireless sensors in oil fields monitoring equipment power by vibration – these all exist and more applications are emerging.
The Wireless Sensor Networks business is set to become a multi-billion dollar activity but only if there is major progress with standards and technology. A new techno-marketing report scopes over 140 manufacturers and developers and looks closely at the impediments to roll out and how to overcome them. For example, today's power sources often stand in way of the desired 20 year life so the report looks closely at how energy harvesting can help and profiles 40 relevant power source manufacturers.
Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) - self organising, self healing networks of small "nodes" - have huge potential across industrial, military and many other sectors. While appreciable sales have now been established, major progress depends on standards and achieving twenty year life.
The new IDTechEx report "Wireless Sensor Networks 2012-2022" draws lessons from many successful installations in the last year. It looks at the complex standards scene with particular focus on WirelessHART that is the key to applications in the process industries in the short and medium term and it shows how the alternative ISA 11.11a has some way to go but may prove useful over a wider field of application and eventually subsume WirelessHART. It examines recent successes of the various backers of ZigBee-related solutions, who is behind the alternatives and how they see the future.
The challenge of excessive power consumption of these nodes, that have to act as both tags and readers, is addressed. For example, progress has been good in getting the electronics to consume less electricity, by both improved signalling protocols and improved circuitry.
As for batteries, lithium thionyl chloride single-use versions have twenty year life in certain circumstances but, for many applications, energy harvesting supplying rechargeable batteries is more attractive.The new report addresses these issues and provides a wealth of analysis of WSN projects and development programmes including the creating of improved WSN components, plus profiles of many suppliers, governments, standards bodies and investors.
By September, expect to have a bumper crop of energy for this year's Harvest Festival!