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Redefining nanopower for the Internet of Things

Added to IoTplaybook or last updated on: 03/10/2020
Redefining nanopower for the Internet of Things

So many of the trends in the Internet of Things today revolve around shiny objects—whether they be artificial intelligence or blockchain—but what if one of the most revolutionary parts of the IoT is something designers consider every day in devices?

Research shows that low power IoT is more than just a growing market, but could easily power $2.6 billion in investment over the next five years.

While it might be easy to contextualize this as simply an extension of the interest in leveraging LoRaWAN as a connectivity and communications protocol or even just better power management from the MCU and beyond, so much of this power lies in nanopower, particularly analog nanopower.

Turning the definition of nanopower on its head

Thinking of nanopower today, it’s easy to simply define it as a device with quiescent current less than 1µA.

While this is true, it doesn’t quite capture the entirety of what nanopower means to technological innovation, bringing intelligence to the edge, or the next frontier of analog.

So, what really defines nanopower? Its ability to spur innovation. 

It enables new applications through a new generation of ultra-low-power devices through higher efficiency and longer battery life—without sacrificing performance. This includes all the ingredients of SWaP: smaller size, lower heat dissipation, and other features inherent in developing next-generation technology on such a small scale.

It extends battery life. It decouples functions to improve efficiency. Plus, it allows for enhanced system control. However, the considerations abound as to how nanopower will truly impact the innovation of the future.

Tech for new applications

As we look at industry trends, we see more devices that can—or have to—utilize nanopower to function. This is even more applicable to the Internet of Things where there is a wealth of everyday actions that can be made “smart.”

However, take a smart lock for instance. The amount of time that it needs to function (possibly only a couple of times in a day) is quite small, but the impact of malfunction is quite large. So, nanopower and its leveraging of nominal quiescent currents resting properties ensure it’s always ready to operate, which puts it high above a shutdown current that can render technology asleep and no ready when it is needed the most.

However, nanopower empowers the designer to take this kind of decision into their own hands through smart device design decisions. Selecting when to operate as well as adding parameters around particular sleep, measure, and transmit periods means that nanopower empowers a wider variety of applications where before, the battery would have been the largest and heaviest component on the board.

Impacting connected technology on a broad scale

Diagram: analog parts and technology
Analog parts play a critical role in bringing connected technology like building
automation to market. Source: Maxim Integrated

Take the idea of a smart lock and broaden it from one home to one block to an entire city of smart buildings. The impact on smart cities alone when it comes to nanopower is astounding, including:

  • Smart buildings where nanopower tech can connect safety equipment, environmental sensors, HVAC, lighting and more to make buildings more intelligent and efficient
  • Smart environments that monitor temperature, principal air pollutants, barometric pressure, light, vibration, ambient sound intensity, pedestrian, and vehicle traffic to make more livable ecosystems
  • Smart parking solutions that can alleviate traffic congestion while improving facility efficiency and user experience

Add on the influence of artificial intelligence, where low latency, real-time decisions reduce data bottlenecks and efficient power ensures that edge devices can not only make existing assets smarter, but can predict failures, outages or even better ways of utilization with more efficiency than ever before.

Nanopower one of many game-changing analog power features

Extending operation time through nanopower is just one of the ways analog is pushing innovation forward. Consider buck, boost, and buck-boost regulators which offer a balance of high performance along with smaller size and lower temperature or LDOs which balance high accuracy with low noise operation.

The balance of all of these needs is critical for next-generation IoT applications—and there are strong analog partners to help consider this unique blend of features when bringing innovations to life.


This content is provided by our content partner Avnet, a global technology solutions provider with end-to-end ecosystem capabilities. Visit them online for more great content like this.

This article was originally published at Avnet. It was added to IoTplaybook or last modified on 03/10/2020.