T here’s no turning back. The Industrial Internet of Things has opened the foodgates, allowing a deluge of data to saturate your ERPs and PLMs. Every enabled sensor, every smart machine,
gives more data to operators and managers on the
factory foor. If used correctly, the IIoT is supposed to
improve productivity on the line, provide better insights
into processes and equipment, and more importantly
reduce stress levels across the board by alerting workers
to potential problems before they become critical failures.
The devices aren’t magic, though. They have limitations.
A big one is power.
Currently, IIo T sensors and devices run on batteries
or are fed power through cables, which lead to extra
maintenance and infrastructure considerations.
“We don’t even believe IIo T is really possible without
wireless power,” says Doug Stovall, chief revenue offcer
for technology licensing company Ossia, which is currently
testing the Cota wireless charging system to enable the
IIot “to achieve the greatness everybody hopes it can.”
The technology operates like WiFi, but sends a concentrated RF signal. Once a device needs power, the receiver
shoots out a beacon signal, which is picked up by the
transmitter. Stovall says the beacon’s power is 50 times
lower than Bluetooth’s. The transmitter has thousands
of antennae, and the software decides which is best
suited to replicate the path the signal traveled from the
receiver. This allows the RF beam to avoid obstacles
such as people. Think of it bouncing off the walls like
an air hockey puck, but the transmitter can hit dozens
of targets simultaneously. Stovall says the technology
is completely safe, as the FCC mandates.
The receiver, a very small silicon chip embedded into
the sensor you want collecting data, continuously broadcasts a beacon signal 100 times/sec, which is then
picked up by the transmitter. For now the transmitter
comprises one or more tiles in the ceiling, or a base the
Five Ways the IIoT Benefits from Wireless Power
The Industrial Internet of Things promises to change how manufacturing is done on every level.
Cutting sensor dependence on external power may fnally fulfll that promise.
By John Hitch
size of an Amazon Echo, while a receiver not embedded
in a device design can be the size of a AA battery. Because the power level is low, multiple transmitters can
be deployed to reduce charging time.
Inventor Hatem Zeine fled the frst patent in 2007
and unveiled the tech, which the company compares to
Nicola Tesla’s wireless A/C model, in 2013. At the time,
the range was 10 feet. They have tripled that to 30 feet.
Other wireless charging solutions, such as magnetic
resonance and induction, are limited to inches or a
few feet. In 2016, Gizmodo
writer Andrew Liszewski saw
Cota charging an iPhone and
called it “the coolest CES
demo I’ve ever seen.”
The uses in homes or of-
fces to power gadgets and
laptops is evident, but can it
really revolutionize the Io T?
Below Stovall explains
the fve reasons why Ossia
thinks it can.
1. LESS MAINTENANCE
Think of how much a pain
it is to replace smoke alarm batteries in your house every
six months, if you remember. Climbing on chairs, fnding
spare C battery. It’s annoying. Now imagine doing that in
an industrial area,
where the sensors
could be high up on
equipment or hidden behind moving
If it’s wired, then
that brings up tangling or fraying issues, which would
be even more diffcult to swap out. Cota chips can cost
as low as 10 cents, Stovall says.
“The cost of changing batteries or running wires adds
up and will limit the potential of the Industrial Io T,” Stovall
says. “These are major pain points people worry about,”
Ossia’s Forever Battery was designed to last ten years
to give you an idea of how infrequently these would need
to be maintained.
2. MORE COMMUNICATION
Because of power concerns, a temperature sensor
may only transmit data a few times a day. If energy con-
sumption is out of the equation, that data fow can be
constant, and more data always equals more informed
decisions on, and greater visibility into, operation.
The best part is that for devices that are not yet
“smart,” Cota raises their IQ.
“Not only is the wireless network providing energy,
it also transmits data between devices,” Stovall says.
“This wireless data on temperature, vibration, speed,
and fow is transmitted to a central hub where it can be
accessed and used to improve safety measures, reduce
energy use, and make major production improvements.”
3. ALWAYS RELIABLE
Let’s put that temperature sensor in a large freezer at
a food and beverage warehouse, where it’s essentially
a sentry guarding against loss of product. If a door is
left open, or if the motor goes down, the temperature
increases. With a battery-powered sensor that loses
power or sends data infrequently, managers might not
get that vital information in time might, and the company
could be looking at a huge loss of inventory.
4. MORE COMPUTING POWER
“Certainly, if there’s a battery in there [the sensors]
have to be bigger,” Stovall says. “It can take up a third,
maybe even 50% of the device.”
The Cota receiver can be about the size of a quarter,
allowing that new empty space to be flled with more
computing power to gather more data.
“You’ve taken a weak Io T device and made it super
powerful,” Stovall explains.
5. DESIGN FREEDOM
Removing the battery also allows designers to shrink
the sensor size.
“Talking to designers, the frst thing they say they
consider is power,” Stovall shares. With one hurdle removed, the design team is more free to think about what
the sensor needs to do. “This empowers designers of
Industrial Io T to do more, even things we haven’t dreamed
of today,” he concludes.