What is the “Internet of Things”?
Our world is more connected than ever with the help of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT refers to the multitude of “things” connected to the Internet, collecting and sharing information or allowing users to perform or initiate functions without even being physically present. An automated smart home would be one example of an IoT application; users can control lights, temperature, locks, shades all from their smartphone.
The term “IoT” generally applies to devices that would not usually be connected to the Internet. A smart light bulb or security camera would be IoT, but smart phones or computers would not be.
Analysts predict that there could be as many as 41.6 billion connected IoT devices by 2025 across an array of different industries and applications. IoT has facilitated collection of data and information in a way that has many processes much more efficient and productive.
What is the role of batteries in an IoT future? From manufacturing, to research, to transportation and domestic use, IoT is encroaching on the world and batteries will play a crucial role in bringing it to life.
What industries would benefit from implementing IoT?
While IoT can certainly remove the need to manually operate or switch on devices, there are certain industries that would greatly benefit from an IoT future beyond increased convenience. Capitalizing on IoT, industries such as healthcare, agriculture, and manufacturing can greatly streamline their processes, increase efficiency, and reduce error, all in all while providing better services and lowering costs.
In the healthcare industry, IoT has allowed for better, more efficient and accurate service to be provided to patients. For instance, IoT devices like heart rate monitors allow hospitals and health care professionals to monitor their patients directly from homes or health care facilities. This reduces the time and costs it would take for doctors to make home visits or or patients to visit the hospital. Automation also allows data collection to be more accurate, reducing human error and allowing professionals to catch any problems early on.
In agriculture, IoT could help farmers to better protect and grow their crops. Sensors can monitor weather conditions, moisture, or wind conditions, soil probes can help track soil conditions and thus help farmers optimize and protect their harvest.
IoT technology has also been continuously adopted in manufacturing to improve processes. Sensors are integrated into factory equipment and are used to estimate potential failures and needed maintenance. This helps to catch possible problems before they arise, preventing disruptions in the manufacturing.
By integrating IoT into process, the hope is for industries to become more sustainable and durable in the long run.
Batteries and IoT
One of the key challenges in furthering IoT is the availability of power and energy sources. For devices that connect directly to a power supply, such as home appliances, this would not be a huge problem. But for applications that are implemented in more remote areas, such as crop fields, or for mobile devices such as heart monitors, batteries are crucial. If the device were to fail, critical data could be lost or allow preventable disasters to occur.
While IoT devices and sensors are generally small and do not require a lot of energy to operate, it would defeat the purpose of integrating IoT if devices have to frequently undergo maintenance and battery changes.
Since devices are small, there is not much room for IoT manufacturers to work with. Batteries need to be able to pack a punch for a device to be sustainable. Depending on the device, batteries are projected to last around 3 to 10 years, although more commonly on the shorter end.
That being said, what is the ideal battery for IoT devices?
As with any battery application, how the device is utilized has to be taken into account. One factor to consider when developing batteries for IoT devices is the environment in which it will be used. Both heat and cold can be damaging to the battery. Colder temperatures may slow down battery chemistry, while heat can severely damage the cell. A battery that can operate within the ambient temperature range of its location is crucial for long-term sustainability and reliability. If the battery is no longer able to efficiently deliver energy, it could render the IoT device obsolete.
Longevity and safety are key in reducing maintenance costs and increasing reliability. Especially if sensors or meters serve to monitor environmental factors like temperature or humidity in remote locations such as rain forests for research purposes. Similarly, a battery-powered IoT that is worn regularly on the body should be free from the risk of damaging or burning the patient.
In order to address these concerns, developers are finding ways to create long-lasting and safe batteries and devices. Designing devices that serve its function without needing too much energy is one direction. Another is designing a device that can recharge itself with energy harvesting technology, whether solar, wind, or even harvesting energy from sound waves in the ambient environment. The ambitious goal would be for this to become a “forever” battery, with devices that never have to be charged or have its batteries replaced.
With the improvement in battery technology, we can be sure to see better IoT devices, creating a much more efficient, connected, and sustainable future.