Renesas and NGK Insulators promote maintenance-free IoT

A reference design developed by ceramic specialist NGK Insulators and Renesas Electronics demonstrates the uses for maintenance-free IoT devices. It is based on NGK’s EnerCera battery series and Renesas’ RE family of low power microcontrollers.

Data collection and utilisation are ubiquitous as the IoT gathers pace, but this may be at odds with efforts for decarbonisation. For countries around the world to meet their goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions they will be required to reduce their power consumption even as they deploy numerous IoT devices for data collection purposes. To realise these targets, there is a need to develop maintenance-free IoT devices that can be powered by trace amounts of electric power obtainable from energy sources in the environment, such as peripheral light, heat, and vibration energy. It also requires a device that does not require battery replacement.

The EnerCera battery series is a lithium-ion rechargeable battery featuring a high capacity, low resistance, and long life despite having a compact, thin body. The EnerCera battery series can efficiently charge itself with a weak current and output an intermittent large current to drive functions such as sensing and communication. To power a device with the electric power stored in the battery, requires a microcontroller that links the battery with sensor ICs, communication ICs, and other components. NGK has developed a reference design with Renesas’ RE family of microcontrollers that are claimed to have industry-leading low power consumption.

“We are confident that the combination of NGK’s battery technology and Renesas’ ultra-low power consumption technology will accelerate the widespread adoption of battery maintenance-free IoT devices,” said Makoto Mizokuchi, head of Low Power Products at Renesas.

“I’m convinced that NGK’s collaboration with Renesas will promote the development of maintenance-free IoT devices, thereby helping to solve social issues while realising a decarbonised society.” said Iwao Ohwada, vice president and general manager, Advanced Device Components, Electronics Business Group at NGK.

As the first phase of collaboration, NGK and Renesas jointly-developed a reference design for wireless outdoor air quality sensing systems powered by solar cells. Monitoring pollution levels in outdoor air provides valuable insights on the associated health effects from elevated levels. Conventional sensing systems can result in problems such as requiring power cables due to their large power consumption and are subject to restrictions on sites where they could be installed. The combination of low power RE microcontrollers and low resistance, high capacity EnerCera batteries will enable constant measurement of outdoor air quality indexes at all times, even with only trace amounts of intermittent electric power obtainable from the solar cells. This will allow monitoring of the degree of atmospheric pollution without having to devote time and effort to power cable wiring and battery replacement. The system can also support long-distance radio communications such as low power wide area (LPWA) network technologies, enabling centralised management of measurements from numerous sensors in the field.

NGK and Renesas have said they will continue to jointly-develop reference designs to realise the widespread adoption of maintenance-free IoT devices that combine the EnerCera battery series and RE family in fields other than environmental monitoring.

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