John Fiske is an engineer by training but gradually developed into jobs with a more commercial focus. As business development manager, John is responsible for the sensor market in the OPV (organic photovoltaics) division of ARMOR.
Interested in connecting with John? Reach out to him on Linkedin!
About ARMOR: ARMOR specializes in the industrial formulation of inks and the coating of thin layers onto thin films. The Group is the global market leader in the design and manufacture of thermal transfer ribbons for printing variable traceability data on labels and flexible packaging. The European market leader in innovative and sustainable printing services and consumables, the Group is a pioneer in the development and production of industrial inks and innovative materials, such as organic solar films, coated collectors for electric batteries and bespoke filaments for additive manufacturing. With an international presence, ARMOR has nearly 2,000 employees in some 20 different countries. In 2019 it posted annual revenue of €280m. Each year the group invests nearly €30m in industrial equipment and R&D. ARMOR is a responsible company committed to stimulating innovation within society.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(00:54) Intro to John Fiske
(02:16) ARMOR’s Use Cases
(06:19) What is energy harvesting?
(08:30) Where are the biggest growth opportunities for energy harvesting?
(10:29) Will we ever stop using batteries? What’s their role in the future of IoT?
(12:06) What does it mean to make IoT more sustainable? What do we need to do to get there?
(15:01) Where do you see the biggest challenges to sustainable IoT coming from?
(19:31) What are the biggest obstacles to energy harvesting?
(21:02) News at ARMOR
– [Announcer] You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.
– [Ryan] Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All Podcast on the IoT For All Media Network. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon, one of the co-creators of IoT For All. Now, before we jump into this episode, please don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform or join our newsletter at iotforall.com/newsletter to catch all the newest episodes as soon as they come out. Before we get started, does your business waste hours searching for assets like equipment or vehicles, and pay full-time employees just to manually enter location and status data? You can get real-time location and status updates for assets indoors and outdoors at the lowest cost possible with Leverege’s end-to-end IoT solutions. To learn more, go to iotchangeseverything.com, that’s iotchangeseverything.com. So without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All Podcast. Welcome, John, to the IoT For All show, thanks for being here this week.
– [John] Yeah, welcome Ryan.
– [Ryan] So I’d love to start us off by just having you give a quick introduction about yourself and kind of walk our audience through maybe your background experience a little bit, anything you think would be relevant for them to learn.
– [John] Okay, so, I’m John Fiske. I’m a business development manager for ARMOR Solar Power Films. Today, I’m in charge of business development for our product which is called ASCA, and which is a very thin photovoltaic film that we use to power all IoT related devices, indoor and outdoor. We that’s, also have other business unit and then segment that we address with ARMOR Solar Power Films. Because today, ARMOR is specialized in the industrial formation of ink and coating of thin layers onto thin films. And we used this expertise develop, to really develop these solar film, in fact, to address many segments, such as the buildings, the transportation, and also the IoT, because today, there is a real problematic for the IoT to be powered, because most of them are using batteries that are not very well sustainable.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. Now, can you talk a little bit more about the technology itself, kind of in its application and how you all use it right now. So, for instance, are there any use cases or deployments out in the world that you’d be comfortable sharing and talking a little bit more in detail about?
– [John] Yeah, yeah, for sure. For example, so we are using today the photovoltaic film on the workplace management system with one of our partners, which is called Roomz SA, which is a Swiss company, that are developing a kind of ink screen, which is used for meeting rooms in companies and so on, to be able to book meeting rooms. And they are providing this hardware screen with a very low energy consumption. And today, they worked with us to make this screen totally autonomous, so which means that at the back of the screen, we used very thin ASCAR film to be able to power and to charge the inside battery of the screen to make it a fully autonomous. So in fact, usually the screen is put on the glass at the outside the meeting room, and then, the light can go through this glass to power the film, and also to power and to recharge the screen. Now, this is a brand new solution, which is also a very low-power solution, sustainable solution that has been developed with Roomz, and which also make them very proud of this product, because that’s a first of its kind on the market. And for sure, having a fully autonomous product, it means that they avoid all the problems for the maintenance of the battery part of their screens, so which is a very good for all the operators of such systems.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. And when it comes to the technology that you all have built, are there any particular industries that you all focus on when it comes to kind of selling into?
– [John] So yeah, today the segment I’m focusing on is the IoT or all the connected electronics and hardware market, which means that we will try to install and to power all kind of electronic device. So, which means that can be some manufacturers of IoT devices that can install the photovoltaic film to be able to power and to harvest energy from the environment indoor or outdoor, to really power their devices or either make them fully autonomous when it’s possible, when it’s a very low power device, IoT device, such as a temperature sensor and so on. Or to be able to increase the lifespan of their sensors. If it’s sensors that use a bit more energy, we can be able to increase the lifespan of the battery from two to three years, from five to seven years, for example. And again, it will lower, for sure, the maintenance costs.
– [Ryan] That’s great. And so I wanted to take a step back and talk a little more high level here for about a topic that we don’t have the opportunity to speak to too many guests about, but I think it’s super important to inform our audience and kind of go a little deeper into, and that is the conversation around energy harvesting. Can you talk at relatively high level about what energy harvesting actually is, and just kind of how it works?
– [John] Yeah, so sure. There’s 100 types of energy harvesting, so there is different technologies, which, mechanical, electrical where you can collect energy. So the basic idea is really to collect energy from your environment and here with the Solar film for sure we collect energy from the light, either it can be a sunlight or also artificial light from led lighting, for example, in indoor environment. And so the Solar film in fact, transforms the lights into electrons and into electricity to be able to power the device or recharge batteries.
– [Ryan] Gotcha, okay, that’s awesome. And what are the overall benefits of energy harvesting and what I mean by that is, why do companies kind of look towards energy harvesting as an element of an IoT solution?
– [John] Yeah, so because today, so the IoT market is a real huge potential market. There is a, let’s say around billions of IoT today, most of them are using batteries. First of all, batteries are not very sustainable in term of recyclability. And so, it’s really to be able to lower the use of battery into the next generation IoT. And also, it will allow to, as I said, increased lifespan of the equipment of the devices and by increasing life span of the devices, so you lower the maintenance cost and the financial and human cost associated.
– [Ryan] Gotcha, and where are we kind of just as an industry as a whole, not necessarily just where you all focus, but where are we seeing energy harvesting utilize the most, and where in your mind do you see the biggest growth opportunity for energy harvesting? Is there a particular industry, a particular use case application that energy harvesting maybe hasn’t cracked into yet that you see as a kind of a big frontier for the technology?
– [John] So, yeah, for sure. So IT is a market that we target because we really think there is a huge potential. No old application or use case are good use case, we have to find the right use case, but on such different kind of application, it could be, for example, IoT tracker device that are usually working on the battery, and that lasts for maybe few weeks, few months that we can add energy and increase their lifetime. And also for the smart building in indoor environments, so, we can think of equip, of solar film all kind of devices for sure that are kind of very simple sensors such as a temperature, a pressure level CO2, and so on. That usually, we cannot guarantee that they are working because we have to change the battery once a year, once every six months and so on. Here, we can really increase and make them totally autonomous, so which means that for the whole lifespan lifestyle of the equipment, which could be 10 years, 15 years, you don’t have to take care of the energy and battery part.
– [Ryan] That’s fantastic. And let me ask, just from your standpoint, you mentioned batteries, obviously do play a role here, but the idea is to kind of help improve the battery life and the sustainability element of it. So how, as we kind of move forward in IoT, how do you see the role of batteries kind of playing a part in IoT over time, and do you feel like we get to a point where we stop using batteries or we just stop using less batteries, focus more on the rechargeable with the energy harvesting component to ensure that we don’t have to change them out and create more waste? Like, what is it about the battery element that, where do you think we can get to on that front from a sustainability standpoint?
– [John] Yeah, so yeah, for sure. So I think we would still use a batteries in the future as for IoT or for electric cars. That’s for sure. But I think the point that we’ll try to use it more efficiently, and more intelligently just to be able to minimize as much as possible the use of battery. For sure there’s a new battery technology is done, will be held for a different kind of application and use case, but really for the sensor part, the idea is really to collect and harvest energy from the environment, because that’s for sure less expensive than using batteries either from a financial part, and also for sustainable part, and for the planet.
– [Ryan] Right, right. And now if we kind of break that out into kind of a further discussion around sustainability for IoT, at a high level, how do you feel like we can make IoT more sustainable and kind of what does that even mean to make IoT more sustainable? In your mind.
– [John] So yeah, in my mind, so for sure before looking to hard energy harvesting, you have to work on the energy consumption of the IoT devices. Because everything has to inspected at the first step of the design of devices and so on, to really be able to use less energy as possible. And there has already a lot of work that has been done on that subjects, either for the sensor part or the communication part with a low bandwidth protocols, such as LoRa, Sigfox, and so on. So that’s really something you have to think as a eco-conception design first, and then for sure, the last step, you hard energy harvesting because your device will allow you to use, these are energy harvesting technology that’s collect very few energy, but that will be enough because you worked before under energy consumptions.
– [Ryan] And aside from the battery element that we’ve already talked about, as it contributes to sustainability, what other kind of things come out of us improving sustainability, like when IoT kind of reaches a higher sustainability threshold, what kind of benefits do you see, feel like we’re gonna see as an industry?
– [John] As an industry, for sure we’ll have, let’s say more, more durable products, more efficient products, and you also, the operators will be, it will be the best for operators to be able to, to be sure that the product is working well without sinking of energy part. And I think that’s, yeah. That’s where your breaks through the next breakthrough point for the IoT devices to be able to be fully autonomous because IoT makers, they are selling the products, but then it’s not the one that are going to buildings and onsite to change batteries. So that’s, it will be for sure a unique value proposal for them to sell this kind of product that needs very, very low maintenance.
– [Ryan] Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And one other question I had about kind of the sustainability element of it is do you, I guess, do you see any use cases or applications where it’s gonna be difficult for us to get to, or to see major improvements on the sustainability side? And the reason I ask is because obviously when it comes to energy harvesting, if we’re pulling in energy from, let’s say the sun to help re-power batteries and keep them charged for devices, there are obviously a lot of IoT applications out there where the energy requirement to run them efficiently is, requires a lot of power. And I’m just not sure from my own standpoint, because I’m not in, I don’t work in the energy harvesting space necessarily, how much power we can actually generate from those types of situations and, in order to power the devices? So what I’m asking really is, are there any use cases you kind of see besides like autonomous cars and things like that, per se, are there any kind of use cases or applications that you think need more technology advancements or technological advancements in order for us to be able to provide better results on the energy harvesting front in order to make those applications more sustainable? I’m assuming things that require very high power consumption are probably on that list.
– [John] Yeah, for sure. The best example can be a smartphones that are or show that there is a very high energy consumptions and the today, for sure, we cannot use some solar films to power and to be sure to smartphone. And because also the smartphone industry is a bit different because tends to transmit more and more data with the connection network that yeah, really send a lot of, a lot of data. And I think in the future it will not decrease for sure. So probably we need more and more power because the need for a bandwidth will increase much than the progress in the telecommunication network I even worked with 5G and so on, for sure maybe it will, we will have a lower energy consumption, but we need a much more data bandwidth. so this kind of thing, it’s a, it will be difficult to to advance for sure. We’ll have progress and the improvement in the, in batteries part, but we still still have the cable to charge the smartphones to see that sort of thing, yeah.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I have from a smartphone standpoint it’s interesting because I’ve seen, and I actually own chargers for smartphones that are passed solar powered. So you can basically leave it out in the sun if you’re camping or outside all day, and it’ll charge the battery within the recharge unit. And then you can plug that into your phone to get, you know, some extra power, I don’t know how much it actually will, you know, what percentage it will charge the phone, but it seems like there’s, you know, obviously some ways to kind of connect smartphones energy harvesting, but to your point, being able to do it directly on the phone is probably a major challenge.
– [John] Yeah, yeah, was really a major challenge because for sure when we are talking about energy harvesting, we’re not talking about outdoor solar panels that can, can get more energy from the direct sun when you’re in an indoor environment. So you have a, I mean, 1000, 10,000 times less energy than in outdoor and even more. So yeah, that’s a really very, very low, low power with, with milliwatts and microwatts, which is not the level of, of what the smartphone is needing, but for sure we can have a kind of solar panel or solar films that we can use for outdoor to charge a smartphone, but it will be an extra, an extra equipment and the extra books that we can use, but it will not be directly integrated on the smartphone.
– [Ryan] Gotcha, okay, cool. One of the last questions I had for you was when it comes to energy harvesting, what do you see as, or what would you say are the biggest challenges that existed when you all kind of ventured down this path to build your offering to the market and technology, and then also going forward, where do you see the biggest challenges for energy harvesting, and then just kind of how you overcome those?
– [John] Oh yeah, so I think the main challenge in the IoT industry today is that for sure, everybody thinks that using batteries is good because okay, battery, when you buy millions of batteries that serve cheap, for sure. So, a lot of manufacturers, so they do not care so much about changing the electronics and so on to be able to, to harvest energy because that’s so cheap to have, to buy batteries. In fact, so that’s, yeah. That’s the thing we have to change, the domain, we to have to change to make them seeing that, okay, we can have an equal consumption of products. And anticipate on the next generation of product to really be able to integrate such electronics and lower the consumption of the electronic of the device to integrate such technologies that can harvest energy directly and avoid a total at the batteries, or at least lower the size of the batteries embedded.
– [Ryan] That’s fantastic, well, you know, this has been a really interesting conversation for me. I haven’t really, and we talked about this earlier, I haven’t really spoken to too many individuals who, you know, have focused on energy harvesting, it’s been mentioned, obviously, you know, the importance of it and what it is, but not into this detail. So, John, I really appreciate your time and kind of coming in and, you know, educating our audience on energy harvesting and kind of the importance of it now, as well as kind of how can contribute to the sustainability of IoT in the future. So as we kind of finish up here, I wanted to see if there are any interesting maybe news or items on the horizon that our audience should kind of be paying attention for or paying attention to for coming out of kind of coming on armor.
– [John] Yeah, so I was also very glad to talk about energy harvesting with you, and thanks for the opportunity.
– For sure, in the near future, we’ll announce new partnerships, new use cases with new applications and new devices equipped with and solar harvesting technologies. One of the next should be a solution that is using the, the solar film for indoor irrigation, and to develop a kind of a use case based on indoor derogation and on the light fire or light fire type communication system that the film can directly collect light fire communication to be able to get information transmitted through light. So usually led lights inside buildings, and then this allows to have a indoor location and with indoor derogation, we can think for, for infinity services, such as a switch on a lighting, admittedly called the lift and so on.
– [Ryan] Right, well, that’s awesome. And if our audience is kinda interested to learn more, or maybe, you know, would want not just learn more about energy harvesting, but maybe learn more about your offerings and kind of, you know, figure out this is something that, that works for their business. What’s the best way to get in contact with the company?
– [John] For sure, either they can, they can go to the ASCA website and here we can have, we have a contact form where they can send any email and message, and then we’ll get back to them and answer and have a call. I’ll look at their projects. We’ll be very glad.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, well, we’ll make sure we link all of that up and make sure we provide the correct destinations for audience to get in contact. But John, this has been a fantastic conversation. I really appreciate you taking the time, and thanks for being on the IoT For All show.
– [John] Okay, yeah, thanks, thanks Ryan. It’d be a pleasure.
– Absolutely. All right, everyone, thanks again for joining us this week on the IoT For All Podcast. I hope you enjoyed this episode, and if you did, please leave us a rating or review and be sure to subscribe to our podcast on whichever platform you’re listening to us on. Also, if you have a guest you’d like to see on the show, please drop us a note at ryaniotforall.com and we’ll do everything we can to get them as a featured guest. Other than that, thanks again for listening. And we’ll see you next time.