IoT is undoubtedly making our lives easier: at home and in the workplace. The growth of the Internet of Things is only going to continue to gather pace, too. In fact, by the end of 2021, it’s estimated that 35 billion IoT devices will be installed across the globe. By 2025, that number is set to be at 75 billion. 

That being said, this growth comes at a price. Besides obvious IoT security and privacy challenges, IoT also leaves a huge energy footprint if not implemented properly. IoT power consumption and battery management are hot-button issues that we’ll need to find solutions to as we move into a smarter and more connected world.

With that in mind, we’ve put together our ultimate guide to power consumption and energy efficiency in IoT. This will help you understand the issue further and help your business counteract it. Let’s get into it.

Why IoT Power Consumption Is High

One reason why IoT power consumption is so high is that IoT technology requires continual power.

Furthermore, the power consumption and energy efficiency of your IoT device can be greatly affected by the IoT protocol you decide to use. The most standard wireless protocol used is WiFi. However, despite its wide adoption, it has a few issues:

  • Power consumption is high.
  • Devices are usually AC-powered.
  • There are issues with IoT latency

This isn’t WiFi’s fault, though. As a protocol, it was designed primarily to optimize bandwidth, range, and throughput—not power consumption. Therefore, a standard centralized WiFi solution is a poor choice for low-power IoT devices that rely on battery power.

How Can You Tackle Device Level Energy Issues in IoT?

The number of smaller and cheaper IoT devices entering – and set to enter – the world of IoT is putting the onus on developers to create more energy-efficient IoT devices.

But, as developers, where do you start? Here are some tips for tackling device-level energy issues in IoT.

Choose The Right MCU for Your Device

If you are working with low-powered IoT devices, the MCU (microcontroller unit)  you select needs to be highly energy efficient.

Whether you go for an 8-bit or 32-bit MCU depends on your device’s requirements. However, whatever you do, make sure you choose the right MCU. 

One thing to look out for is an MCU that allows your device to switch from passive to full-speed mode without initiating your CPU’s (computer processing unit) core. This will conserve battery power extremely effectively. 

Looking for a power conserving MCU? Take a look at our guide to Texas Instruments WiFi modules and development boards for IoT

Incorporate Some Low-Power Consumption Techniques Into Your Device

Building an ultra low power IoT device can be much easier if you look to make use of some low power consumption techniques. 

Here are a few different techniques you can use:

  • Power Saving Mode (PSM) – Power saving mode uses network connection timers to reduce IoT power consumption. You can set PSM for a time period of your choice. Moreover, your device will stay registered with a network before it is disconnected, even when it’s not in use. And if the device communicates with a network within this window, no extra power is used to reconnect.
  • Extended Discontinuous Reception (eDRX) – Extended discontinuous reception is just what it sounds like. Similar to PSM, eDRX saves power by periodically shutting down a cellular reception module of a device in order to halt communication. However, think wisely before adopting this one as it may delay data in getting to its destination. While this is fine for some IoT devices, it’s not as recommended for devices within industrial or healthcare industries.
  • Wake-up signals – These allow low-power IoT devices to remain asleep and not check for incoming signals. While asleep, the device must receive a “wake-up message” before turning it back on. This is useful for devices that don’t need to communicate for long periods of time. 

So, while IoT technology requires constant power, you can get on top of IoT battery management by giving your device some well-needed downtime. 

Read how EyeCloud.ai kept their video surveillance camera powered for 3-4 months between charges by working with Nabto

Reevaluate Your Wireless Protocol Choice

As mentioned before, WiFi is not an ideal network protocol choice if you’re looking to lower your IoT device’s power consumption. 

An alternative you can use is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). BLE is one of the lowest power-consuming wireless technologies available. Furthermore, it has the capabilities to be kept in passive mode and, helpfully,  can be used in smartphones and laptops. 

However, if you need low-power consumption and distance, ZigBee might be a more appealing option. The ranges of BLE and WiFi are typically around 100 meters, whereas ZigBee is around 200 meters.

Compare the different Network protocols in our complete guide to IoT standards and protocols in 2021.

Speak to Nabto About Reducing IoT Power Consumption

Another way in which you can become more energy-efficient and reduce your IoT device’s power consumption is by simply speaking to us. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to IoT power consumption. However, through our platform and team of IoT experts, we’ve been to helped a number of businesses do just that – through various techniques. 

In addition to our aforementioned work with eyecloud.ai, here are a couple of others we’ve provided power consumption solutions for:

  • Cosesy – We used a 833mhz proprietary radio solution for IoT multifunctional home security systems producers, Cosesy. Now, their PIR sensors can run for years on just 2XAA batteries. Internet connections is accomplished by using a 833mhz to ethernet gateway that forwards the data notified over the low power radio.
  • Widex – For Widex’s smart hearing aids, we used a combination of proprietary radio for the hearing aid to a BLE gateway to a phone connected to the Internet. Furthermore, in the near future, the hearing aids will be BLE connected directly – drastically reducing power consumption.

Want to learn more about how to reduce your device’s power consumption? Book a free consultation and find out how Nabto can help you. 

The Bottom Line

As we’ve made clear, IoT is not the most energy-efficient technology. IoT developers around the world are scratching their heads for ways to tackle the device-level energy issues in IoT. 

And while it’s possible that smart technology will help in this fight, for the time being, the onus is on us. Thankfully, you can employ these tips and tricks to reduce IoT power consumption.

It’s worth mentioning that these work on a device-by-device basis. So, try them out and see what works for your device and what doesn’t. However, if you want someone to both find the answer and do the heavy lifting for you, get in touch with us today.

Read Our Other Resources

We’ve also published a range of IoT resources for our community, including:

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