The Ambient IoT describes the segment of the Internet of Things (IoT) encompassing connected devices that harvest energy from ambient sources (e.g., light, heat, or radio waves), convert it to electrical energy, and use it to either self-power or to extend their battery life. Examples of end applications fitting the Ambient IoT segment today include tags, labels, and/or sensing nodes for asset tracking, real-time location, and smart home control.
The Relevance of Ambient IoT
The Ambient IoT is gaining popularity as public interest in technologies with a positive environmental or social impact grows. The idea of ambient-powered electronics with zero battery waste, requiring minimal maintenance, providing convenience and intelligence for industries and consumers, and reducing the cost of ownership over the lifetime of a product is highly attractive from multiple standpoints. Nevertheless, what truly makes the Ambient IoT relevant today is that critical building blocks to harvest energy from the environment, manage the energy efficiently, and build ultra-low power wireless networks are becoming commercially practical, leading to real Ambient IoT products that can work reliably.
Bluetooth Technology and the Ambient IoT
Bluetooth® Low Energy is naturally suited for Ambient IoT applications due to its low power, high-efficiency essence.
Bluetooth® Low Energy (LE) is naturally suited for Ambient IoT applications due to its low power, high-efficiency essence. Moreover, the introduction of capabilities like PHYs for higher throughput or longer range, mesh networking support, direction finding, and others have broadened the scope of use cases that Bluetooth technology can address in Ambient IoT solutions. Combining that with the tendencies of size and cost minimization of Bluetooth ICs in the industry, you get that the Ambient IoT is recognized today as a key growth vector for Bluetooth quantified with a TAM (total addressable market) of one trillion units of shipments as noted in the 2023 Bluetooth Market Update. Bluetooth technology and the Ambient IoT are a perfect match for each other.
Infineon Believes in the Ambient IoT
With 20+ years in the Bluetooth® market, Infineon believes in the potential of the Ambient IoT to expand Bluetooth demand and use cases and to accelerate decarbonization and digitalization through ambient-powered solutions. In line with that, Infineon is collaborating with Ambient Photonics and e-Peas, innovative leaders in indoor light energy harvesting PV cells and ambient energy management ICs, respectively, to validate and prototype the design of an ambient-powered Bluetooth remote control built around a Bluetooth MCU from Infineon.
The impact of ambient-powered remote controls could be substantial. A Q3 2023 market research report from TechInsights indicates that global shipments of smart TVs and digital media streaming devices added up to approximately 1.3 billion units from 2019 to 2023. Assuming all of these included traditional remote controls powered from two AAA alkaline batteries, and that users have had to replace batteries every six months, during this period ambient-powered remote controls could have prevented the use and residual management (or mismanagement) of almost 14 billion alkaline AAA batteries. Looking towards the future, ambient-powered remote controls could be a significant step towards sustainability in the smart home and towards decarbonization efforts.