Market Insights

Internet of Things Fuels Power Electronics

October 03, 2014 by Wolfgang Patelay

There´s no doubt – nowadays electronic technologies have infiltrated nearly all sectors of our daily life. From the very first the electronics industry

There´s no doubt – nowadays electronic technologies have infiltrated nearly all sectors of our daily life. From the very first the electronics industry is characterized by rapid evolution concerning size, speed, performance, and power consumption – speed and performance were always increasing and size and power consumption were always shrinking. This evolution is going on up to date and enabled the development of tiny but high-performance handheld devices – smartphones and tablet computers – which you can see in the hands of nearly anybody. These handheld devices nowadays allow the users to connect to the Internet any time and everywhere. Thanks to the fact that the Arpanet emerged in the mid-1990s from a network only for scientists to a general usable Internet for anybody today.

And right now we are at the dawn of a new era – the age of the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing-like devices within the existing Internet infrastructure. Typically, IoT is expected to offer advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine communication and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications. The interconnection of these embedded devices (including smart objects), is expected to usher in automation in nearly all fields, while also enabling advanced applications like a smart grid. Things, in the IoT, can refer to a wide variety of devices such as heart monitoring implants, biochip transponders on farm animals, automobiles with built-in sensors, or field operation devices that assist fire-fighters in search and rescue. Current market examples include smart thermostat systems and washer/dryers that utilize Wi-Fi for remote monitoring.

And all these IoT devices need power to operate. If you bear in mind the plethora of such devices its clear that energy efficient is paramount yet nowadays but even more important in future. Therefore there is great effort in the electronic industry to reduce energy consumption by eliminating power losses. A good opportunity to learn more about the success of this effort and the state of the art of energy efficiency in electronic products is electronica 2014, held this year from November 11th to 14th at the fairgrounds of Messe München. This year electronica is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, and will once again be the industry platform for exchange of information and expertise about all aspects of electronics including energy efficient solutions for the industry and consumers.

Electricity represents one-third of all energy consumed around the world. Growing energy prices are causing the industry and consumers to rethink things. Therefore the future belongs to intelligent solutions for low energy consumption in the sectors for mobility, industrial plants as well as household and consumer electronics. Exhibitors from around the world will present the latest trends and developments for energy-efficient electronic components, systems and applications.

A good example is the high-voltage switcher UCC28880 which is expanding Texas Instruments portfolio of high-voltage power solutions for offline AC/DC designs. This 700V-switcher with a quiescent current of less than 100 µA – half the power consumption of existing solutions integrates a 700-V power MOSFET and high-voltage current source, increasing overall energy efficiency of “always-on” non-isolated power systems with output currents up to 100mA, such as smart meters, home automation equipment and white goods. The controller reduces system cost and minimizes the overall size of the power supply, while maintaining high efficiency and system performance. Designers can use the switcher to build different converter topologies, such as buck, buck-boost and flyback, without adding extra semiconductor components.

Another example for the great effort to reduce power consumption is Infineon Technology, the company which acquired power electronics specialist International Rectifier recently. Dr. Helmut Gassel, Head of the Business Unit for Industrial Power Control at Infineon has identified various markets and regions where energy efficiency continues to increase in importance - for environmental as well as cost-related reasons. He states: “In China, entire fleets of busses for inner-city transport are switching to electric drive systems. In the United States, they are experimenting with electrified highways for trucks. And regulated drives for industrial facilities are catching on in Europe. Energy efficiency is also developing into an important sales argument for household appliances and intelligent building-control systems.”

STMicroelectronics will present at electronica the LSM6DS3, its first iNEMO Ultra product - an always-on, high-performance 6-axis combination accelerometer and gyroscope that sets new standards for device and system power efficiency, signal noise, and performance in motion sensors. In concert with its ultra-low-power STM32 Microcontrollers, the LSM6DS3 combos will create - according to the company - new possibilities for the development of battery-powered smart sensor systems to be embedded in mobile and wearable devices and innovative objects for the Internet of Things (IoT). The tiny (2.5x3.0x0.8mm), iNEMO Ultra 6-axis inertial-sensor combo (3- axis accelerometer/3-axis gyroscope) delivers industry-leading noise performance while effectively managing system power with state-of-the-art technology that in testing has proven to be typically 20% more energy-efficient than the best alternative combos in low-power mode while delivering outstanding performance and protecting valuable board real estate.

These are only three examples of a multitude of new energy efficient power products which will be demonstrated at electronica 2014 in München - let´s go there and have a closer look.