There’s a Power Battle Going On with the Internet of Things

What do antennas, sensors and integrated circuits all have in common in an IoT-connected device? They are all fighting for the same power supply resources. Indeed, power consumption may be the biggest challenge facing designers of mobile devices for the Internet of Things. As battery sizes shrink to allow for smaller form-factors, battery lifetime becomes critical to meeting cost, performance, and reliability requirements.

As more and more devices are made “IoT ready” by incorporating antennas, sensors, and integrated circuits, their power demand increases from that of a traditional device to the power needed to maintain performance of a smart connected device, all with limited power supply. Battery lifetime, therefore, becomes a key metric for success, as IoT devices evolve into the “Smart home” and wearable medical electronics space. While the potential is tremendous for these devices to improve life quality and make our lives safer, our reliance on these devices demands that designers meet these power supply challenges to ensure their reliability. At the same time, success in the IoT electronics space is heavily influenced by time-to-market. Extremely short development cycles are driving engineers to integrate antenna, sensor, and chip designs into their products with very little prototyping. Simulation, therefore, becomes a key enabler to helping engineers successfully meet their power targets while driving their product innovation.

Transitioning a traditional smart device to a connected smart device requires efficient antenna design in order to achieve required connectivity, without over-designing which could translate to higher power consumption. Inefficient antenna designs can result in larger battery size, higher costs, and larger form-factors. As antenna designers are challenged with creating optimized antennas to enable connectivity of medical devices, wearables, and mobile devices, power limitations as well as small form factors are key obstacles. While an “off-the-shelf” antenna design may be highly optimized for performance, its integration into a PCB board, for example, may impact its signal strength. Simulation, therefore is key to optimizing antenna location, position, and efficiency regardless of its deployment environment.

Power demand for integrated circuits also adds to the challenge of IoT-enabled mobile devices. As logic is added to support more capabilities such as video processing, real-time data processing & control, and touch-screen ability, the power efficiency of these devices becomes key to their successful implementation. Power supply strategies of these cutting-edge chips are becoming more and more complex, and these need to be validated to confirm these chips meet power consumption targets in any given mode of operation, while conforming to electromagnetic reliability requirements of a dense electronic system. Given this complexity, physical prototyping is expensive and impractical, and simulation is key for the early power estimation and implementation of these complex designs.

internet of things lunch and learn Sensors are essentially the front-end of the Internet of Things, connecting our physical world to the digital world, however these also pose a power challenge for the system. A standard IoT-enabled device may contain multiple sensors, allowing these devices to provide real-time data and control for smart medical devices, smart home monitoring, and automotive systems. Power consumption is a key concern for sensor designs, as well as achieving small size and ensuring their resiliency to electromagnetic interference (EMI). As the Internet of Things becomes the Internet of Everywhere, sensors may need to perform in a wide-range of climates for the energy sector, provide sufficient sensitivity against EMI for an automotive application, or be small and lightweight to fit in a medical device. The key to speeding-up the design and innovation of IoT-enabled devices is the ability to simulate the real-world power, thermal, and radiative behavior of antennas, chips, and sensors integrated in these devices. Simulation can enable engineers to “get it right the first time” and achieve design success.

To find out more about how simulation can help with innovating IoT devices, I invite you to attend a Lunch & Learn seminar on “Electromagnetic Sensor Design: Simulation Techniques to Speed-Up Innovation” on Dec. 12th in San Jose, CA.