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Ultra-low power wireless technology puts dumb objects online

05 June 2013

Battery-free sensors will enable anything from orthopaedic implants to supermarket labels to be connected to the Internet of Things.

New battery-free, ultra-low power wireless sensor technology is being developed by UK-based TTP that will add connectivity and intelligence to everyday dumb objects such as medical implants, supermarket labels and engineering components.

TTP believes it is through innovative energy harvesting techniques and low energy sensors that the Internet of Things will become a reality and billions of devices will communicate and interact with each other.

TTP is working on applications that range from sensors embedded in smart orthopaedic implants for remote monitoring, to battery-free sensors for measuring highly-stressed components in F1 engines and active supermarket labels that are always up to date with real-time data.

And the same technology is being used for displaying the balance on Oyster-type pre-pay cards, controlling home energy systems or street lights and intelligent security or postal tags.

TTP expects many of these new sensors will connect to smartphones and tablets using ultra-low power Bluetooth technology or Near Field Communications (NFC) for close range transactions.

TTP has combined advanced ultra-low power electronic design with energy harvesting techniques such as making use of radio waves, vibration, heat and light and biological sources.

It has also optimised the use of low-power wireless for communications and providing power through human tissue and metal in medical implants. Typically, these applications require the embedded sensing electronics to be fully encapsulated in Titanium and interrogated whilst deep within the body.

In Motorsport the technical challenges are quite different, although as with medical applications the demand for critical sensor data justifies the need for technological advancement.

Battery-free sensors can be used to measure real-time parameters deep within mechanical systems such as engines, gearboxes and braking systems that experience extreme temperature and vibration. 

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