Broad technology promises the brunt of wireless sensor applications

To date, at least two energy harvesting companies have reported dramatic sales growth. In addition to their widespread use in wireless sensor networks, their customers have discovered a variety of applications for energy harvesting products.

Energy harvesting in wireless sensor networks enables remote nodes to operate for years without human beings. The current market is still small, but its growth rate is expected to reach 65%, and it will exceed 200 million units by 2010. AdvancedLinearDevices company CEO ObobChao said that the company's energy collection component sales increased by 78%, demand from many industries.

One of the hottest applications of energy harvesting technology is the use of wireless switches that do not require batteries to replace wired light switches. For example, a 57-storey building in Madrid uses 4,200 wireless buttons to control 4,500 lamps so that there is no need to rewire the light switches when moving the interior walls. The architects used the wireless button made by EnOcean to turn the push button action into an RF signal to turn on the lights. All the lights are connected into a network. The network provides power and switch control signals. The wireless receiver receives the encoded signal from the wireless button and then passes the signal to the correct lamp.

Jim O'Callaghan, vice president of marketing at EnOcean, said that at present its biggest rival is wires. The energy that can be collected is as large as the ocean, but the challenge is to make products as good as battery-powered products, but without using batteries.

Enocean also has a range of other energy harvesting products that convert motion, sound, vibration, temperature, ambient light and other energy sources. Enocean's button is available for five days per charge. O'Callaghan revealed that the company and its OEM customers are forming an alliance and will set standards next year. Enocean is currently developing its own system-level chips for the wireless sensor network market.

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