What’s New in Batteryless Sensing?

By Randy Frank

To solve the problem of replacing batteries in ever-increasing wireless sensing applications in the Internet of Things (IoT), PsiKick has developed proprietary sensors called Smart Sense Nodes (or S2Ns) that employ ultra-low-power digital and RF circuit technologies. The S2Ns are powered by energy harvested from heat or indoor lighting that eliminates the need for a battery.

In crowded industrial settings, the first-generation Smart Sense Nodes can communicate about 100 feet but the company is planning a next-generation S2N with a range of 900 feet to cover a large factory floor. A recently announced Steam Trap Monitor (STM) with the S2Ns demonstrates the significance of using energy harvesting to eliminate battery replacements.wireless sensing

In the STM, no batteries means no maintenance costs over the S2N’s lifetime, which is guaranteed to exceed 20 years.  In the application, one S2N is used for each steam trap to transmit data using PsiKick’s proprietary low-power Psi-Fi® protocol to control node gateways. Since steam traps discharge unwanted condensate, they are critical components in the steam systems utilized worldwide for manufacturing, power-generation, heating, sterilization and other processes.

Brian Alessi, Director, Product Marketing & Business Development at PsiKick, explains the problem in steam trap maintenance. He says, “The cost-saving benefits of continuous steam trap monitoring are quantifiable and well-known, yet the sheer volume and dispersed locations of traps have presented challenging obstacles for maintenance and reliability organizations.  ‘Best practices’ manual inspections require significant labor resources that few companies can afford to spare.” 

While automated, battery-powered sensors address the steam trap maintenance event, they create another maintenance problem when the batteries have to be replaced. The STM solves both problems.