Ambient IoT

Ambient IoT refers to a new class of wireless communication that is largely self-sufficient by using energy from the environment. It is an ecosystem for connecting and automating a large number of objects and devices, in which each object is connected to form a wireless sensor network using low-cost, self-powered sensor nodes.

As one of the key mechanisms for power supply, Ambient IoT relies on  energy harvesting, which eliminates the need for cables to power or recharge batteries in mobile devices and smart objects. Vibrations from equipment, machinery and buildings – or, alternatively, the temperature gradient between pipes, radiators and valves and their immediate surroundings – can be used to generate electricity. Solar cells can also be used for power generation both indoors and outdoors. This electricity can be used to directly power small electronic systems.

© Fraunhofer IIS
Energy can be harvested for example by exploiting differences in temperature between pipes and the ambient temperature.

Are there estimates for the savings potential of this technology?

Supplying a sensor node with power from energy harvesting sources makes it independent of other energy providers. Potential savings include energy storage costs, e.g. batteries, and maintenance work, for example changing batteries, as well as the cost of wired supply and its installation. However, the type and extent of these savings differs individually depending on the application and cannot be generalized across all conceivable use cases.

© Fraunhofer IIS
Supplying a sensor node with power from energy harvesting sources makes it independent of other energy providers.

Will a mass-market-ready product emerge in the foreseeable future?

It’s difficult to imagine self-powered products that are suitable for the mass market since energy-harvesting-powered operations need to be adjusted specifically for the respective use case and the energy sources available there. For example, power supply from vibrations always has to be adjusted to the amplitudes of oscillation and the frequencies occurring on-site.

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Energy-autonomous IoT communication with energy harvesting

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"Ambient IoT" and "Zero Energy Communications" are central topics of the current 3GPP and IEEE standardization on IoT devices that are battery-less through energy harvesting and use energy-optimized radio protocols.

Technology consulting and development 

In this field of competence, Fraunhofer IIS offers

  • the design of sensor systems – if required the whole chain of sensor, sensor data processing, power supply and transmission (backend and event detection)
  • the orchestration of Fraunhofer know-how for an optimal customer solution
  • access to use cases and requirement profiles through participation in standardization bodies (IEEE, 3GPP)
  • knowledge on the application of edge cloud approaches and AI for the overall system
  • methodology for energy consumption measurement and analysis in 5G NB-IOT, Bluetooth, Wifi/IEEE, other standards.
  • development and operation of sensors with EH sources
  • development of wireless systems

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