Powering IoT Devices

Patrick R. -
Powering IoT Devices
Illustration: © IoT For All

The world is expeditiously moving towards a complete-digital age with the rise in the number of smart devices and advanced technologies like IoT. Modern digital equipment like smartphones, smart bulbs, smart thermostats, Alexa, Siri, etc., have gained significant prominence in the last couple of years. However, to your surprise, most smart devices need a low-voltage DC to run. This is because modern equipment has sophisticated integrated circuits that are designed to take DC power as their input. But, as we know, the power at our homes is distributed via AC power, so the devices need to convert the power from AC to DC to work efficiently. It is likely that the power needs for our digital systems will be more optimized and flexible in the future. Let us look at how power is supplied to IoT devices today.

“It is likely that the power needs for our digital systems will be more optimized and flexible in the future.”

-Patrick R

Application of Power Supplies

The power application may differ depending on the devices and their design. The highest power consumption is done by devices with consistent operations and very little downtime. They utilize a high amount of energy to run. However, their high energy can be significantly lower than traditional equipment that needs massive energy inputs. So, devices that work extensively generally use lead-acid or lithium-ion batteries, which can stay charged for longer durations.

Apart from that, there are certain IoT devices, like smart thermostats, that consume significantly less power. As their operation is limited, they may take the room temperature, pass the information to the system, and go into sleep mode. This saves plenty of energy for the device. Such devices usually use alkaline galvanic cells that keep them running for extended periods.

Power Supply & IoT Device Operation

There is a significant impact on the operations of IoT devices with different power supplies. The following describes how the right power source for an IoT device can impact the system:

  • Better Efficiency: Every digital device has set specifications of power requirements for its ideal use. When you always provide the device with company-specified power input, it performs with higher efficiency and delivers exceptional results with an increased lifespan.

  • Lowers Downtime: As the device works more effectively with the right power supply, the maintenance needs for the device significantly lowers. This improves the working hours of the device, and it provides higher uptime to the process.

  • Higher Productivity: It is natural with upgraded efficiency and performance, the device’s productivity also increases. So supplying the manufacturer-specified power to your IoT devices can help you achieve higher work productivity.

Different Battery Types

The following are the different types of batteries used in various IoT devices.

Lead Acid Batteries

Lead-acid batteries are highly popular these days, especially because of their usage in electric vehicles. The lead-acid batteries consist of acid and two electrodes made of lead. The anode is made up of lead, while the cathode is made up of lead oxide. The electrolyte in the battery is present in the form of acid. Lead-acid batteries have low internal resistance, which helps them generate extremely high power. Large IoT infrastructures and machines generally require this type of power supply.

Alkaline Batteries

These are the most prevalent battery types that are widely used in everyday life in our TV or AC remotes, watches, many wireless devices, etc. The electrodes in this battery type are made of iron and nickel, and alkali (NaOH or KOH) is used as an electrolyte.

Alkaline batteries usually have the limitation of a shorter life span. This is due to its nature to generate greater internal resistance that leads to higher self-discharge operation. Though this problem is now addressed through the creation of complex technology for intercalating hydrogen into iron, the battery still lacks more power than other battery types. That is why this type of battery is mostly used for portable and low-power IoT devices that require very minimum power to operate.

Lithium-ion Batteries

These are highly prominent batteries used worldwide in all modern applications such as laptops, cell phones, etc. Lithium-ion batteries are wrapped together in aluminum and copper foil. Inside the foil lies a porous substance that is saturated with lithium electrolyte. The electrolyte in lithium-ion batteries contains a base usually made of graphite, oxide, or salt of the metal. The lithium ions are intercalated into the base to initiate the chemical reaction and generate a high energy density.

Alternative Power Sources for IoT

Though chemical-based batteries provide greater performance and reliability to IoT systems, they are extremely harmful to the environment. Hence, the need for replacement is being substantially addressed, and more use of alternative power sources is being encouraged.

Let us have a look at some of the alternative power sources to enable IoT systems:

Solar Panels

This power source has gained immense popularity in recent years. It uses the photovoltaic effect in semiconductors to generate power for IoT devices. Solar panels have a simple operation. When a quantum of light hits the surface of a semiconductor, the electrons jump to a higher energy state, producing power that can be leveraged for multiple purposes.

Thermoelectric Effect Power

This is a powerful option that works on the concept of the Seebeck effect. In this method, a heterogeneous conductor is taken of which both sides have a substantial temperature difference. Due to the falling temperature on one side, the ions and electrons move to the colder side and generate sufficient electromotive force to power IoT electronic devices.

Atomic Batteries

This type of power source is very promising and is used in space programs to power satellites. In this method, the isotope batteries are designed with nanodiamonds, and the batteries can generate power for years. However, the limitation of this power source is that it only generates a small current and needs an accumulator to store and constantly draw power from the source.

Considerations for Your Power Supply

It must be clear now that IoT devices can operate using different power sources. Follow these three steps when considering what power supply to select for your IoT-based system:

#1: IoT Setup Requirements

You must know your IoT setup requirements and consider if you wish to create a full network or need a power source just for one or two devices. Then, depending upon your requirement, you can either power your devices from an external network or purchase your batteries.

#2: Cost

Next, calculate the costs you will bear to power up your IoT setup. Explore all the options and consider their costs. The most cost-effective way is taking power from an already established network.

#3: Backup Needs

Do not forget about the backup needs you will require in your setup. If you are establishing an industrial IoT setup, you will have to keep a backup system to help prevent downtime for your machine and operations.

The Need for Power

It is pretty evident that however unique your IoT systems may be, they can not operate without power. Modern technologies counter this problem by identifying new energy sources and developing energy-efficient electronic devices. Many IoT-based companies offer complete solutions to all kinds of IoT needs.

Patrick R. - Head of Strategy, Intuz solutions Pvt Ltd.

Guest Writer
Guest Writer
Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All.
Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All.