Atmosic Brings Wireless Energy Harvesting for IoT Devices Directly Onto the SoC
One major challenge of Internet of Things (IoT) devices is power. Hoping to traverse this challenge, Atmosic has created energy harvesting solutions integrated directly into the system-on-a-chip (SoC).
When it comes to extending battery life in IoT products, there are many routes one can take.
Generally, engineers approach this challenge by either improving battery capacity or lowering device power consumption. However, a third technique that is gaining traction is energy harvesting.
A high-level overview of a basic IoT system. Image used courtesy of Texas Instruments
One company focusing on energy harvesting is Atmosic, a startup taking energy to the next level by taking energy harvesting technology and integrating it directly into wireless SoCs.
Recently, the company made headlines with its newest energy harvesting wireless SoC family.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the role of energy harvesting in IoT and explore the details of Atmosic’s newest SoC family.
Energy Harvesting for IoT
Most IoT devices are notoriously very low-power electronics, which often include remote sensors, embedded computers, and are powered by small batteries.
Additionally, these devices are meant to be deployed out in the field, hopefully not needing to be serviced for months or even years at a time.
One of the significant challenges becomes how to extend battery lifetime so IoT users can maximize device uptime and minimize the need for costly, time-consuming battery replacements.
The basic components of an energy harvesting system. Image used courtesy of Visconti and Primiceri
To this end, energy harvesting has become a popular technology, as it, in theory, provides an unlimited operating life of low-power equipment and eliminates the need to replace batteries.
By using energy harvesting, the IoT device itself can recharge and sustain its battery without external intervention.
Some of the most popular forms of energy harvesting for IoT include solar, radio frequency (RF), thermal, and motion-based techniques.
Generally, energy harvesting devices are their own system block, physically separate from the processor, meaning increased area and cost requirements.
Atmosic’s New ATM33 SoC Family
To improve energy harvesting for IoT, startup Atmosic claims to be the only manufacturer of wireless communications chips that integrate energy harvesting capabilities directly into the wireless SoC.
The company recently added a new family of energy harvesting wireless SoCs to its portfolio.
The new family, dubbed the ATM33 Series Bluetooth 5.3 family, claims to support remarkable battery life and low power operation for IoT devices.
System block diagram of the ATM330e. Image used courtesy of Atmosic
The device is built around a 64 MHz Arm Cortex M33F processor, supported by 128 KB of random-access memory (RAM), 64 KB of read-only memory (ROM), and an additional 512 KB of non-volatile memory.
From a communication perspective, the SoC supports Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity while using a “ground-breaking transmitter,” which claims to achieve 0–10 dBm while having 2 Mbps, 1 Mbps, 500 kbps, and 125 kbps PHY rates.
The system RX is also said to be extremely low power, achieving a current draw of 0.7 mA. More details about the power consumption and architecture of the radio subsystem are currently unavailable.
Along with this, Atmosic’s new SoC integrates an on-chip RF energy harvester and supports connectivity to external energy-harvesting devices, including RF, photovoltaic, thermoelectric, and motion.
Currently, the specifications of the device’s power production are unknown.
Overall, the SoC is believed to achieve 3-5x better battery life than competing devices.
Pushing Forward IoT Energy Harvesting on Chip
As IoT devices demand longer and longer battery life, energy harvesting is becoming an attractive solution for many.
Atmosic is innovating in energy harvesting by taking the technology and integrating the technology directly into its wireless SoCs, saving space, bill of materials (BOM), and cost. It will be interesting to see what future SoC and energy harvesting technology will come from this company and how it will continue to create low-power solutions for IoT devices.