In episode 13 of the Let’s Connect! Podcast, David Su, CEO And Cofounder at Atmosic Technologies, joins host Ken Briodagh to talk about how to lower power consumption, improve battery life, and what the future of battery technology might look like.
David and Ken get into how IoT developers can make battery-powered devices more efficient, how important it is to make batteries last longer and store more power, reliably, and what the intermediate steps will be, including constant recharging via green energy sources.
David Su brings to Atmosic over 30 years of engineering expertise with an extensive wireless background, as his past teams’ radio designs have brought billions of successful devices to market. He was on the early engineering team at Atheros, VP Analog/RF Engineering, and VP Engineering with Qualcomm following the 2011 acquisition of Atheros. David earned a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and has been a Consulting Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford. David is an IEEE Fellow.
Atmosic Technologies is an innovative fabless semiconductor company designing ultra-low power and energy harvesting wireless solutions. Atmosic’s technology is helping to dramatically reduce and disrupt device dependency on batteries, delivering forever battery life and battery free solutions for the Internet of Things. The company’s products enable the IoT device ecosystem — designers and manufacturers, as well as end users and those responsible for deployments — to dramatically lower costs and efforts associated with maintaining the growing Internet of Things in the Personal, Home, Auto, Healthcare, Industrial, Enterprise and Smart Cities segments. In addition to these tangible business advantages, Atmosic aims to reduce ecological impacts with its vision of dramatically reduced battery consumption in the Internet of Things. Follow Atmosic on Twitter.
Key Question and Topics from this Episode:
0:00 Show Introduction
1:05 David Su and Atmosic Technologies Introductions
3:37 How are we making batteries function better for IoT?
4:56 Sustainable Energy, and Infinite Battery Life
5:52 Software Solutions for Battery Efficiency
7:28 AI Decision Making in the Cloud
8:30 The Impact on Processing and Latency
9:33 Environmental Impacts and Energy Management
11:56 Battery as a Precious Resource
14:38 Final Thoughts
- [Ken] This is the IoT for All Media Network. Hello, friends in IoT. Welcome to Let's Connect, the newest podcast in the IoT for All Media Network. I am Ken Briodagh, Editorial Director for IoT for All and your host. If you enjoy this episode, please remember to like subscribe, rate, review and comment at all your favorite podcasting platforms. And to keep up with all the IoT insights you need, visit IoTFORALL.com. Before we get into our episode, the IoT market will surpass $1 trillion in the next few years. Is your business ready to capitalize on this new and growing trend? Use Leverage's powerful IoT solutions development platform to efficiently create turnkey IoT products that you can white label and resell under your own brand. Help your customers increase operational efficiency, improve customer experience or even unlock new revenue streams with IoT. To learn more, go to IoTCHANGESEVERYTHING.com. That's IoT-changes-everything-.com. Now, let's connect. My guest today is David Su, the CEO and Co-founder of Atmosic and we are gonna talk a little bit about batteries. David, welcome to the show. - [David] Glad to be here. - [Ken] It is a real pleasure to have you. Thank you so much for joining me. In case folks aren't familiar with you, David, or with that mosaic and sort of where you guys fit into IoT, can you tell us a little bit about your background and sort of what you guys work on? - [Ken] Sure. The overall team, we had been working on connectivity solutions for over the past two or three decades as well. So overall, what we thrive to do essentially is create a solution that is significantly lower power consumption than what you find on the marketplace. Thereby by extending your battery life significantly. In addition, because our power consumption is so much lower than everybody else, what you'll realize is that it's much easier now to harvest energies and then create solutions that can be battery free or have battery to last the entire duration of a given product. So, you can see the two pieces: the low power and the energy harvesting. - [Ken] I find battery technology fascinating. I was one of those kids who made the giant potato chain battery when I was a kid. And I made a little, you know electromagnetic generator that I hooked up to my bicycle and like tried to make charging batteries and all sorts of stuff. I messed around with all that stuff when I was a kid cause I find energy storage really interesting. And the development of battery technology and energy storage technology is sort of the next big hardware innovation that everybody's trying to accomplish, it seems like. And we're not quite there, like some of the Tesla batteries are really, really cool and are doing stuff, but I don't think at least from what I've seen, we're not quite there yet but the intersection of battery and energy storage with IoT is really the pinnacle of the existing battery technology. Like, not getting into what we might get to in terms of storage. With what we have right now, the idea of leveraging IoT for more efficient use of energy and for lower energy use and also for better energy use since their more efficiency seems like the sort of best of what we can do now. And what I'm interested in is how we're doing that. What are some of the ways that we're getting this lower energy use and still getting enough function to make the IoT devices work the way we need them to? - Right. Right. And as you mentioned that we are not developing new battery technology but in itself, what we're doing here essentially is making the best use of the batteries we have and allow you the chance to provide the overall solution that we'll have much longer battery lives, that we don't have to throw away batteries on a regular basis. As you know, I think the last estimate I saw in the US alone, I think we're throwing away like 3 billion batteries a year which is like a hundred a second. - [Ken] Yeah, yeah. - [David] One hundred more being thrown away every second as we speak. But what we do essentially is first, reduce the power consumption. And power consumption itself in many ways is a very careful design techniques that we have developed over the past many years now. And that allows us to consume about three to five times lower power than what you find with competing products. So, our first solution is connectivity solution using Bluetooth, which is everywhere. And our solution now to give you so much longer battery life. - [Ken] Sure. - [David] That's the first piece of the puzzle. But if you want to further extend your battery life to infinity, then you need a way to generate the additional source of energy. The way I look at it is that if your power consumption need is quite low, the lower it is the easier it is, when you move, when I moved my hand around, I'm actually generating all kinds of energy. If I need a lot of energy then now I need to really like crank something really hard. - [Ken] Yeah, right. - [David] But if I need milli Watts, it's a little bit easier. In our solution, on the average now, we are talking about micro Watts of energy now. So that makes it so much easier. Now you can harvest energy and then now your battery life lasts. - [Ken] Yeah. And it sounds like most of this innovation is in hardware, is in making the hardware require less energy and therefore can be charged via solar or the kinetic-- - [David] Kinetic energy. And you can do RF. You can do heat as well. - [Ken] Sure. And is there also a software component? - [David] Absolutely. Because what you have essentially is that you want to design it from this system level tops down. The most important criteria actually is very simple: to not burn energy when you don't need to. That is probably the number one saving grace but to do that well, it takes a fair amount of work. As you see, how do you know you don't need to talk? So, that makes a difference. So with system design, anyways, you know, this day and age the system operation is almost completely controlled by software. So, we definitely have a very large software component. Now you need to do that. Even within the software, how do you do it in the most efficient manner? So it's a conjunction of hardware and software in a system level. And for example, in our system now, we have created this different power domains, meaning that when you want full function, you burn the most amount of energy. And if you look at a given solution sitting there, if I don't need to do full function, I should turn off as much as I can. So, we create stages for you to say, now I am waiting for a sensor, let me just only turn on that sensor node. If I have important things to do, then I wake up the next stage and the next stage and the next stage. So, its a combination. - [Ken] That's really, really cool. It sort of speaks to the heart of what IoT is good at, sort of deciding the decision tree path. One of our past episodes, we were talking a lot about sort of how machine learning and AI helps us create these sort of decision trees. And I feel like if it's not in the tech now, a path where AI is doing a lot of this decision-making-- - [David] Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Because you sort of have to decide where you put your AI computation, how much you do at the edge in the battery operated device, like a coin cell operator device. What you actually moved over to your local computer or your cloud. Simple things like, imagine a voice control, remote control, the push-to-talk remote, now the question is how much of this you do locally? How much of this is cheaper if you just compressed data and send it away to the cloud? So it turns out that's what almost everybody does. So you press a button, you talk to it and locally you will digitize, compress the data. You send it through your wireless link and you send it to the cloud. The cloud does all your speech recognition and send it back as you command to your system. So that turned out to be a good use of, as you mentioned, who does what and how. - [Ken] What effect, if any, does all of the sort of strategies for battery consumption reduction have on things like latency or speed of process or anything like that? Is there a trade off there? - [David] The short answer is you should not because from a consumer point of view, the moment you tell people that, "This is your light bulb but it's really dim", is not gonna work. So, from a consumer point of view, the goal of the engineering is to provide a solution that is seamless. - [Ken] People want it all. - [David] Yes, in a way it's good because that allows you to create, be more creative in coming out with the right engineering trade-off solution to get you the right performance. But as you mentioned earlier about software, this is in many cases, the intelligence comes in, right? Having the ability to say, I know you are just sitting there on a table, not doing much. Why do you need to do all of the things that there's power consuming? - [Ken] Right, right. - [David] The staging goes a long way. - [Ken] Let's sort of broaden the focus a little bit and talk about some of the environmental impact type of things because I am a wide-eyed optimist about the future of IoT and the impact that this industry can have on sort of improving global conditions in a lot of areas. But I think, environmentally is a big one. - [David] I agree. I think we are all guilty in part as consumer and as engineers creating solutions without thinking through what happens down the line. So yeah, I totally agree with you in the sense that-- One comment I made to people essentially is that when you go out buying things, you almost seldom think about the cost of ownership. - [Ken] Yeah. - [David] Yeah, and it took me a while to actually convert my whole house to led lighting. I was late, sorry. - [Ken] Yup. We all were. Honestly, everybody was late. I think that the energy discussion and the benefits that we can get through IoT on reducing energy consumption and on reducing waste-doable like batteries, as you were saying before, is huge. But I also think that there's a benefit that IoT can find that we're not quite at yet in terms of routing energy resources. And what I mean by that is that if we can get a sense of the power grid in an area or a micro grid, or however it gets developed, what areas of that geography are running on long life or infinite life functionally batteries so they require less energy? And which ones are going to require more? We can get the power of IoT and AI to start intelligently routing power to places and therefore using less storehouse. And this gets us back to batteries. Cause we've got to store this energy somehow. And especially if we're talking about renewables, things like that I won't get into nuclear, but we should. Hot takes. We should. But let's talk about how battery technology or at the very least IoT leverage of existing technology helps us environmentally on a more efficient use of power supply and more intelligent. - [David] Yeah. I like that comment you make about more intelligent use of power supply, more intelligent use of battery because in my mind is we should look at battery as somewhat of a precious resource. It's more precious than line power. Everything's precious, but it's all relative. There's that more global optimization, meaning that if you have, if you know you're sensing node on your window's sensor, open and close the window sensor is precious battery power. Then you should try to minimize that power consumption in its node. And your Alexa machine that is plugged into the wall socket is less precious. If you have a trade-off between a battery operated function and a device that is not battery operated, then being able to offload correctly in the system design goes a long way to make things better. And I think that the world's actually doing the right thing. We are all moving in the right direction. I'm optimistic like you are, in a sense that we will create solutions that are better over time. The only thing that worries me a little bit is our appetite for consumption is growing too. So there there's that rates. - When we get to the point where we can reliably store one year of power for a typical household in the US, it has to be US, then we will have reached a level of battery technology that I think becomes globally sustainable. Because if you think about the battery consumption of a typical household in the US for a year, their power consumption, rather. If you take that battery and you ship it to almost anywhere else in the world, you can run a household for 10 years. So my point is that by taking the over consumption of not just the US, a lot of countries, and then use good battery technology to distribute that power elsewhere. And also to, I mean, it creates whole a whole new economy because if you think about the equator, which is typically where a lot of the poorest parts of the world are, and you say, "Hey, you guys get all the sunlight. Charge all battery, sell them to the rest of the world." Now we've created a whole new economy. We've created a whole new system. - [David] And overall, the overall vision essentially is that how can we make sure that the overall battery usage and the definition of battery changes, as you say not a disposable component that has no additional impact to us beyond what we do on a daily basis, making sure that whenever we consume the battery, we should think a little bit harder. - [Ken] We're getting near the end of our time, David. I want to sort of give you the floor here. If you could take our listeners and send them away with an idea, what would be the takeaway that they should think about in their own business development and thinking about power for their own devices? - [David] Sure. Thanks for the opportunity. In my mind, there are two things. One is, as I said earlier, the important thing as a consumer point of view is that when we do make our purchase decision, think of the cost of ownership, the longer term of not just what you pay for at the cash register, but what your overall cost will be over the lifespan of the product itself. Meaning that, how many times do you need to change your battery and what it's impact is overall. And then the second part of it is to the more engineering committee out there, you know, audience, in a sense that watching out for power consumption is important. We, as a team, can make a difference in this industry to make sure that we have a more sustainable world for generations to come. - [Ken] That is a wonderful sentiment to end on. So, I'm not even going to add anything. David SU, CEO and co-founder of Atmosic. Thank you so much for being my guest today. It's been a real pleasure to have you. - [David] Thanks, Ken. - [Ken] Thanks again to all of you listening out there. I hope you've enjoyed our discussion, and if you have, please make sure you like and subscribe so you don't miss out on any of our episodes. We post every week and I hope you'll leave us a rating review and comment on your favorite podcasting platform. If you'd like to suggest a guest, please click on the link in the description. And we also have a great sister podcast on our network called the "IoT for All" podcast. So make sure you check that out. - [Ryan] Hey, Ken, let me jump in real quick and introduce your audience to another awesome show on the IoT for All Media Network. The show that started all, the "IoT for All" podcasts where I bring on experts from around the world to showcase successful digital transformation across industries. We talk about used cases in IoT solutions available in the market and provide an opportunity for those companies to share a device to help the world better understand and adopt IoT. So if you're out there listening and haven't checked it out be sure to go check out the IoT for All podcast available everywhere. - [Ken] Thank you, Ryan. Now get back to your show and thank you all for joining us on this episode of "Let's Connect". I've been Ken Briodagh, Editorial Director of IoT for All, and your host. Our music is "Sneaking on September" by Otis McDonald. And this has been a production of the IoT for All Media Network and take care of yourselves. You are listening to the IoT for All Media Network.