Energy Harvesting Powered Location-Aware Nodes

May 25, 2016 by Jeff Shepard

nanotron Technologies today announced its new swarm API version 3.0 at Geo IoT World 2016 in Brussels. The new firmware runs on all swarm bee modules and focusses on further reducing power consumption required to deliver location-awareness.

“The combination of our low power module with swarm API v3 and the game-changing energy harvesting chip from e-peas semiconductors lets energy autonomy become a reality.” says Marcel Borwitzky, Product Manager at nanotron Technologies and ads “For the first time we are demonstrating distance measurement (ranging) running from a small low cost solar cell with 2-3 second updates here at Geo IoT”. Monitoring distances in energy autonomous mode broadens the scope of location-awareness for the industrial IoT significantly. Safety applications like proximity detection and virtual safety zones will be running without permanent power supply or batteries.

Thanks to the new swarm API swarm bee modules provide a new level of flexibility for power management. The built-in acceleration sensor, timers or programmable GPIOs can be used to change the module’s power consumption and location update rates directly. The swarm development environment with its set of swarm PC Tools and DK+ evaluation and test boards supports application development on a host micro controller or a Windows PC. The new swarm API version 3.0 is available for all customers now.

nanotron Technologies is continuing the effort to further simplify the deployment of precise location technology at the lowest possible cost and with the lowest possible energy consumption. The AEM10940 from e-peas is an integrated energy management subsystem that extracts dc power from PV cells or TEGs to simultaneously store energy in a rechargeable element and supply the system with two independent regulated voltages. This allows product designers and engineers to extend battery lifetime and ultimately get rid of the primary energy storage element in a large range of wireless applications like industrial monitoring, geolocation, home automation, wearables…

The AEM10940 harvests the available input power from 1μW to 50mW. It integrates an ultra-low-power Boost converter to charge a storage element, such as a Li-Ion battery, a thin film battery or a super- or conventional capacitor. The Boost converter operates with input voltages in a range of 100mV to 2.5V. With its unique cold-start circuit, it can start operating with an empty storage element at an input voltage as low as 380mV and an input power of just 11 μW.

The low voltage supply typically drives a microcontroller at 1.8V. The high voltage supply typically drives a radio transceiver at a configurable voltage. Both are driven by highly efficient LDO (Low Drop-Out) regulators for low noise and high stability.

Configuration pins determine various operating modes by setting predefined conditions for the energy storage element (overcharge or overdischarge), and by selecting the voltage of the high voltage supply. However, special modes can be obtained at the expense of a few configuration resistors.

The chip integrates all the active elements for powering a typical wireless sensor. With only seven external components, integration is maximum, footprint and BOM are minimum, optimizing the time-to-market and costs of WSN designs in all markets.

Five identical capacitors and two inductors are required, available respectively in the small 0402 and 0603 SMD formats. The AEM10940 comes in two packaging options, with 20 or 24 pins, using space-saving quad-flat-no-leads packages (QFN).