Smarter Power Consumption

Sensors: When less becomes more

What if the next generation of IoT sensing solutions offered ubiquitous, unobtrusive, and more aesthetically pleasing sensing? And, what would that mean for security and compliance?

Moving in this direction requires ultra-low-power sensors. Historically, the ability to monitor facilities and assets has been limited by large and intrusive sensors that are costly to install if hardwired or require annual maintenance replacing batteries. However, advancements in power consumption technology have spurred the development of a new generation of ultra-low-power, long-lasting sensors that come in very small packages.

These new sensors unlock new possibilities for security control and monitoring — for example, the ability to place sensors that monitor movement directly on drawers, doors, windows, artwork, or just about any object in seconds. Traditional sensors are too large and intrusive for these types of applications.

His new generation of sensors are much smaller, easier to install, maintain, and use than their predecessors and enable security professionals to more efficiently and effectively monitor facilities and protect assets, all while lowering costs.

POWER STANDS IN THE WAY OF SIZE

Until recently, commercially available security sensing technology has not kept pace with advancements seen in other forms of electronics (e.g. computer and personal electronics). Due to traditional constraints around power consumption and use, prohibitively large security sensors based on decades-old technology continued to be the norm, resulting in limited applicability and continued high installation costs.

Sensors should not be large and intrusive, they should blend in with their surroundings. Additionally, they should be easy to deploy with minimal labor. This is, quite simply, smarter and better security. However, in order for sensors to be less obtrusive and more discreetly integrated into their environment, they need to be small and that requires smaller batteries and better power management.

SMARTER SOLUTIONS, BETTER PRODUCTS

To build the next smaller and smarter generation of IoT sensors, product developers and engineers need to look beyond old power-hungry off-the-shelf components. For a sensor to work on low power, it requires advanced circuit design that manages and dictates power use. These new products need to be built and engineered from the ground up using advanced circuit designs and integrated components engineered to limit and control power consumption. This reduces power requirements and battery size, the two biggest factors impacting size and also lifespan.

A growing base of research and techniques exist for designing and engineering this next generation of electronic sensors. Companies and product developers just need to make the investment, and it won’t be long before they feel increasing pressure from new companies bringing cutting edge product offerings to the market.

SMART DESIGN FOR BETTER POWER MANAGEMENT

Young companies like CubeWorks, Everactive and Yost Labs are bringing new and amazing ultra-low-power sensors to the market. Even well-established companies like Analog Devices and NXP are quickly developing low-power sensor products.

In addition to low power competition, this next generation of sensors is also ultra-smart, often with onboard computers that are able to be programmed to sense very specific events to respond to changes in the environment. This intelligence is key to power management, allowing sensors to spend most of their time dormant until sensing and transmitting is required. Imagine a smart sensor that sits on a door and is programmed to sense only certain patterns of movement and then go to sleep after radioing an alert.

The sensor will consume much less power and last much longer than a traditional sensor. Additionally, imagine a sensor that has been placed on a door that opens and closes only a few times a year. That sensor could remain operational for more than a decade in this ultra-low-power state.

Sensors built and engineered using this type of technology offer numerous benefits in functionality, in addition to being of small size and improved longevity.

ADVANCING IOT SENSORS

The low maintenance and operational costs associated with low-power sensors will drive demand and encourage further advancements in the IoT sensor space. When comparing products, look for ultra-smart and ultra-low-power sensors capable of advanced power management. And take into account size, ease of use, and longevity to ensure optimal performance and maximum applicability.

Additionally, when developing better security solutions for various industries, IoT product developers and engineers should continue to ask strategic questions pertaining to key aspects of power management and use when developing circuit design. If a sensor only occasionally records environmental conditions (e.g. the temperature or humidity), standby power consumption will be critical. Similarly, the frequency with which the sensor radios out to its gateway to share its data will significantly impact power use.

A new generation of sensors is emerging that offers unprecedented size and longevity, and these ultra-low-power sensors are the rising stars in advanced security and asset protection.

This article originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of Security Today.

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