Smarter Power Consumption
Sensors: When less becomes more
- By ZhiYoong Foo
- Oct 06, 2020
What if the next generation of IoT sensing
solutions offered ubiquitous, unobtrusive,
and more aesthetically pleasing sensing?
And, what would that mean for security
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
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
This article originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of Security Today.