Power Management: The Power of Nanopower

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Power Management: The Power of Nanopower

Changing batteries attached to ampere-sucking devices is a time-consuming, costly bore. The implementation of low-energy nano power management not only enables longer battery life, or the use of free solar energy, but is also becoming a big-bucks market.

Many of the trends on the Internet of Things revolve around bright, shiny gizmos – often involving artificial intelligence or blockchain – but one of the most revolutionary parts of IoT involves something designers have to consider every day for their devices. Most components need power, and driving down the amount consumed is becoming a big-bucks market. Research shows that low-power IoT is more than just a tick-box market and could easily command $2.6 billion in investment over the next five years.Power Management

quarter of all portable devices will employ energy harvesting within the next few years.

Paul O’Shea, EE Time

“Up to a quarter of all portable electronic devices, including mobile phone handsets, MP3 players, and laptop computers as well as wire-less networking devices, will employ some form of energy harvesting within the next few years,” says Paul O’Shea of EE Times.
Nanopower brings the total power required to run a system down to a tiny fraction of full-power mode, significantly increasing battery longevity. It does this by managing the power consumption of multiple system components, with almost zero power required for its own operation. It can also add additional capabilities while keeping the functionality of other components intact. It can switch circuits within a device on and off as required, which means critical components, such as battery monitors and internal timers, stay on while major power drains, like microcontrollers and wireless circuits, either turn off or go into very low power-consumption mode.

Turning Nanopower on Its head

It’s easy to define a nanopower device simply as one with quiescent current less than one microampere. While this is true, it doesn’t quite capture the entirety of what nanopower means to technological innovation, or its importance in bringing intelligence to the edge – or its contribution in crossing the next frontier of analog.
What really defines nanopower? The answer is its ability to spur innovation by enabling the development of applications for a new generation of ultra-low-power devices through higher efficiency and longer battery life – without sacrificing performance. This includes all the ingredients of a SWaP (size, weight, and power) reduction initiative: smaller size, lower heat dissipation, and other features inherent in developing next-generation technology on such a small scale.
Nanopower has been hailed beyond its ability to extend battery life for its ability to decouple functions to improve efficiency, and to enable enhanced system control. At this early stage, opinions abound as to how it will truly impact innovation in the future.

Technology for New Applications

As we look at industry trends, we see more devices that can, or have to, use nanopower to function. This is even more applicable to the Internet of Things, where there is a wealth of everyday actions that can be made “smart”.
Take a smart lock, for instance. The number of times it needs to operate, possibly only a couple of times in a day, is quite small but the impact of a malfunction would be quite large. Nanopower and its leveraging of a nominal quiescent current at rest ensures devices are always ready to spring into action. This puts rest mode high above the relatively comatose sleep mode induced by a shutdown current which can render technology asleep and not readily available when it is needed most.

Power Management - the role of analog

The Role of Analog: Analog parts play a critical role in bringing connected technology like building automation to market.

Where before the battery would have been the largest and heaviest component on the board, selecting when a device operates, as well as adding parameters around particular sleep, measure, and transmit periods, allows smaller, lighter batteries to be used – or the same battery with much-enhanced longevity. The ability for designers to take these kinds of decisions into their own hands means that nanopower empowers a wider variety of applications.

Impacting Connected Technology on a Wide Scale

Take the previous example of a smart lock and scale it up from one home to one block, to an entire city of smart buildings. The impact of nanopower on smart cities is astounding, including:

  • Smart buildings where nanopower tech can help to optimize the intelligence and efficiency by connecting together safety equipment; environmental sensors; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC); lighting; and a host of other facilities
  • Smart environments that monitor temperature, principal air pollutants, barometric pressure, light, vibration, ambient sound intensity, plus pedestrian and vehicle traffic to make more livable ecosystems
  • Smart parking schemes that can alleviate traffic congestion while improving facility efficiency and the user experience

Add to all this the influence of artificial intelligence where low-latency, real-time decisions reduce data bottlenecks and efficient power consumption ensures that edge devices can not only make existing assets smarter but can also predict failure and outages or provide even better usage with more efficiency than ever before.

Power Management: Game-Changing Analog power

Extending operation time through nanopower is just one of the ways analog is pushing innovation for-ward. Consider direct current (DC) power controllers like buck or boost converters and buck-boost regulators which offer high performance along with smaller size and lower operating temperature, or low-drop-out regulators (LDOs) which balance high accuracy with low-noise operation.
The harmonizing of all of these modules with needs is critical for successful adoption of next-generation IoT applications – and there are strong analog partners available to help create a unique blend of features to bring innovative ideas to life.

Power Consumption

The Benefits of Nanopower

  • The ability to monitor sensors and process data at much-reduced power consumption
  • Components, or elements within them, can be put to sleep and woken up based on different rules
  • Deep sleep with almost zero power consumptionPower Management
  • The ability to wake up the device within a few micro-seconds according to scheduling, event triggers, or on demand
  • Dedicated API for defining different operating modes depending on preferences
  • Compatibility with both digital and analog sensors and peripherals

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