Improving Battery Life in IoT Smart Camera Designs
The wireless connectivity side eats up a huge portion of the power budget in an IoT smart home security camera design. Learn how to keep power low as smart cameras add more processing intelligence.
In a recent report, Global Market Insights estimates the smart home security camera market will grow substantially between 2023 to 2032, driven by a dramatic rise in residential criminal activities worldwide.
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates there are approximately 2.5 million burglaries annually. Homeowners are using technology to fight back. IoT adoption in smart homes, for example, in the form of easy-to-install video cameras (Figure 1) are enhancing detection and improving security.
Figure 1. This CE-Link solar-powered Wi-Fi video camera embeds InnoPhase IoT’s Talaria TWO INP1014 module.
Because these solutions are optimized at the system level, smart IoT video camera developers are already beginning to add machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to tackle the rapidly growing security demands. However, there are still some basic challenges for video cameras—and they involve powering devices with batteries that just don’t meet the challenge.
Inherent Challenges With Video Cameras
Today’s top-selling battery-based Wi-Fi smart cameras use batteries—able to last a mere 3 to 6 months. Given the flexibility of IoT devices, the number of devices used, and where they are placed, changing out batteries that often—with the associated costs—is problematic.
Wireless smart cameras typically use a significant percentage of the available system power for connectivity—as much as 50 percent—even when sitting idly yet connected to the network. Wi-Fi was initially designed for high bandwidth data transfer—not low power. Transmitting radio frequency (RF) consumes immense energy that increases with long-range data transfers.
To deliver on the promise of today’s cloud-connected, always-on, wireless smart video cameras, Wi-Fi transmission must operate with power levels on par with Zigbee and Bluetooth protocols. At these power levels, there is a dramatic extension of battery life.
The access to lower power operation and a corresponding drop in price potentially opens the door to greater adoption, as well as enabling the camera features to include the state-of-the-art designs that the addition of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can bring.
Figure 2. InnoPhase IoT’s low power Wi-Fi video camera reference kit with Talaria TWO IN1014 module
There are other design considerations including Wi-Fi provisioning using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). No IoT device is static (Figure 2). Firmware-Over-the-Air (FOTA), for example can be used to upgrade the system, or update an AI model. Wi-Fi throughput enables these updates in a timely and convenient manner, providing operational and total cost of ownership benefits and ease-of-operation and deployment.
Why is Enhancing Smart Wireless Video Cameras Important?
Wireless smart security cameras and video doorbells observe behavior and react to motion or sound. They automatically send an alert from the cloud to a homeowner’s phone or email. In contrast, an enhanced smart wireless AI-based camera more accurately discerns the difference between a real emergency and everyday activity.
AI software incorporates object modeling and machine learning that consistently improves functionality and insight. It can, for example, identify a dog running onto a porch as a benign event without triggering an alert. However, if someone breaks a window or takes a package from the front porch, the event is recorded, and a message is sent.
Cloud-connected smart cameras have three main modes:
- Wi-Fi idle connected
- Active video streaming
In sleep mode, the camera is at its lowest power operation and requires a local interrupt, such as a motion sensor or button press, to wake the system. Current consumption for sleep mode is on the order of tens of microamps.
Wi-Fi idle connected requires a slightly higher amount of current, on the order of 100's of microamps, to monitor for interrupts and to maintain connectivity to the Wi-Fi router to listen for messages from the cloud to wake the system.
With active video streaming, the entire camera system captures and transmits video to a cloud service. This requires a much higher power mode since the camera's video processor and Wi-Fi chipset are in full operation. In this case, the current consumption can reach approximately 250 mA at 3.3 V.
Maximizing Battery Life is Critical
Maximizing battery life means lowering overall current consumption. It sounds simple, but it isn’t. A basic approach is to select the lowest power components for the camera design. This involves a Wi-Fi chipset, video processor, and power management unit. In such a design, paying close attention to hardware system design is vital because every microamp is extremely valuable.
By optimizing the overall functionality to limit time spent in high-power modes, combined with efficiently using system resources significantly extends battery life. For example, using a Wi-Fi chipset to monitor the system instead of relying on a video processor dramatically extends camera operation.
Long battery life and untethered wireless cloud connectivity are two major design barriers for video IoT. Surprisingly, a mere 10% of video cameras are currently battery-operated primarily due to battery life limitations. The move to a wireless format, however, has so far been problematic, as power-hungry Wi-Fi rapidly drains video camera’s batteries.
Currently, however, there’s a viable fix to the problem. InnoPhase IoT technology features 40% lower power consumption and more than one year of battery life performance—solving key pain points. The addition of cloud connectivity provides designers greater design flexibility. For example, a cloud-connected smart video camera can have a smaller footprint and use smaller batteries yet have longer battery life.
Enabling Technology Based on Digital Polar Radio
Now let's look at the technology under the hood of Innophase’s IoT solution. The technology behind the long life of video camera batteries, and the ability to offer a wealth of additional features in the future is the InnoPhase IoT ultra-low power Wi-Fi and BLE platform, Talaria TWO. The multiprotocol platform eliminates the challenge of power-hungry processing of previous radio architectures by using an advanced digital polar radio design.
Figure 3. Talaria TWO offloads TCP/IP and cloud connectivity stack on its integrated MCU. (Click image to enlarge)
There’s a preconception that Wi-Fi is too high-powered for battery-based applications. Bucking that notion, Talaria TWO “untethers” cameras from all wired connections, both power and network, providing better and more accurate data for cloud processing (Figure 3). It also enables optimal placement flexibility for IoT devices.
Proven in the IoT Field
The Talaria TWO is already being used in applications and services including such IoT devices as enhanced baby monitors, security cameras, video doorbells, access control, and identity verification. For example, a Talaria TWO AI-enabled smart video camera with battery life 2-3× longer than current solutions and multi-year life when augmented with a solar panel is already on the market.
A top priority for smart homes is a security system capable of real-time threat detection, monitoring, and alerts. Now, IoT Wi-Fi video cameras with batteries that last substantially longer between charges and a low power approach, are already beginning to drive faster adoption and innovative use cases. Talaria TWO also solves the problem of FOTA/AI model update through high performance throughput.
All images used courtesy of InnoPhase IoT
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