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.

Master Icon File Paper

NEW MARKET RESEARCH

The Ambient IoT – The Emergence of a New Class of Bluetooth® IoT Devices

This report defines the Ambient IoT, outlines targeted use cases, and highlights the next steps needed to capitalize on the Ambient IoT opportunity. It also explains the central role of Bluetooth® technology in addressing Ambient IoT use cases, characterized by its low power consumption, low cost, flexibility, interoperability, and scalability.

LEARN MORE

Ambient-Powered Bluetooth Remote Control

The basic idea behind the ambient-powered remote control design (omitting ambient-powered from here on for simplicity) is to integrate three key components that leverage core technologies and expertise from each collaborating partner in the project: An indoor light solar cell from Ambient Photonics, an ambient energy management IC from e-Peas, and an ultra-low power Bluetooth® MCU from Infineon. Figure 1 shows the high-level system diagram of the design.

Figure 1 – Remote Control Block diagram
Figure 1 – Remote Control Block Diagram

Indoor Light Solar Cell

Indoor light is captured with a low-light indoor (LLI) bi-facial photovoltaic (PV) cell based on patented, dye-sensitized solar cell technology from Ambient Photonics that enables ambient energy harvesting in an efficient manner. These cells produce three times more power than traditional Si-based solar cells, and their higher power density is optimal for low-drain applications like remote controls. With such an energy source, there is no need for a battery chamber which makes the remote sleek, small, and lightweight.

Ambient Energy Manager IC

The energy captured with the solar cell is transformed and supplied to the remote control unit by the AEM00940 ambient energy manager IC from e-Peas. The AEM00940 is targeted to harvest energy from PV sources having a fixed voltage range over the lighting range, meaning that the impedance of the source is quasi proportional to the light level. With a single PV element, the AEM00940 starts working from a low voltage level and boosts it to the storage element with high efficiency, reaching and generating a regulated output of 3V to power up the rest of the system. The AEM00940 provides protection against under- and over-voltage situations, ensuring that the storage element operates in safe conditions.

The supply source architecture stores several joules of energy to support application requirements. The supply source is provided with a level of pre-charge that allows the AEM00940 to cold start the first time. Once started, the AEM00940 performs continuous charging of the storage element.

Bluetooth Low Energy MCU

Control, computing, and wireless communication functions in the system are enabled by the CYW20829 Bluetooth® MCU from Infineon. The CYW20829 is a high-performance, ultra-low power, and secure MCU compliant with the latest version (v5.4) of the Bluetooth Core Specification. It is optimal for Bluetooth LE HID applications like remotes and keyboards.

The CYW20829 is configured to remain in deep-sleep power mode most of the time to minimize energy consumption. The application runs on freeRTOS with multiple tasks handling Bluetooth, KeyScan, and battery monitoring. The Bluetooth task initializes the stack, GATT DB, and starts the advertisement service. The KeyScan task detects the key event, such as press/release, maps it to the HID report map, and sends it to the TV via a Bluetooth notification. The battery monitoring task is used to monitor battery voltage periodically and calculate battery life.

fig2 control board front
Figure 2 – Bluetooth Remote Control Board

fig2 control board back

Design Prototype

To validate the concept, mechanical and functional prototypes of the design have been built. Figure 2 shows the remote control PCB with the Bluetooth® MCU and required external components. The full remote control prototype encased in its plastics can be seen in Figure 3. For testing, the remote control was paired to an Android TV, and the functions outlined in Figure 4 were checked.

The functionality of the design has been verified and debugged in the lab. To showcase the results, a working demo of the project was presented at Infineon’s 2023 OktoberTech™ tradeshow in Silicon Valley.

fig3 control prototype
Figure 3 – Ambient-Powered Bluetooth Remote Control Prototype
fig4 control functions
Figure 4 – Remote Control Functions Implemented

What’s Next?

The Ambient IoT is relevant, attractive, and practical. With Bluetooth® LE at the core, it has enormous potential to drive new applications and use cases, commercial success, sustainability in the smart home, and decarbonization. To accelerate the ramp up and adoption of the Ambient IoT, partnerships and collaborations to leverage technologies and expertise will be key, as evidenced by the project presented in this article. We look forward to seeing conventional remote controls replaced by ambient-powered Bluetooth remote control solutions very soon!

Master Icon File Paper

NEW MARKET RESEARCH

The Ambient IoT – The Emergence of a New Class of Bluetooth® IoT Devices

This report defines the Ambient IoT, outlines targeted use cases, and highlights the next steps needed to capitalize on the Ambient IoT opportunity. It also explains the central role of Bluetooth® technology in addressing Ambient IoT use cases, characterized by its low power consumption, low cost, flexibility, interoperability, and scalability.

INSTANT DOWNLOAD

The Role of Bluetooth Technology in the Ambient IoT

Over the past two years, the Ambient IoT has been a growing topic of…

How Ambient IoT Facilitates Effective Real-Time Carbon Footprint Tracking

The escalating global climate crisis and regulation is forcing enterprises around the world to…

Why We Need the Ambient IoT

The next stage of evolution for IoT devices, the Ambient IoT refers to a…

Ambient IoT: Open (Standards) for Business Whitepaper

Ambient Internet of Things (IoT) — a true Internet of everything, everywhere — will…

Expanding the Ambient IoT with Bluetooth Remote Controls

The Ambient IoT describes the segment of the Internet of Things (IoT) encompassing connected…

The Ambient IoT - The Emergence of a New Class of Bluetooth® IoT Devices

Over the past two years, the Ambient IoT has been a growing topic of…

2300 Meters of Bluetooth Connectivity - Not so Short Range

The number of Bluetooth® devices and applications is constantly increasing. Applications such as warehouse…

The Rise and Rise of Bluetooth

Near ubiquitous wireless tech is making everyday life simpler, safer, and healthier for billions.…

Retail Pharmacy

A leading retailer is collaborating with Wiliot, an ambient Internet of Things (IoT) pioneer,…

Using Bluetooth in Location Tracking Devices

Bluetooth ranging technology, which uses the distance between one or more devices through signal…

2023 Bluetooth® Market Update

Featuring new market insights and industry forecasts from ABI Research and other analyst firms...

The Importance of Standards in the Smart Retail Market

Retailers are increasingly looking towards Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to help them deliver…

Talking IoT: Bluetooth Location Services

Silicon Labs CMO, Megan Lueders, hosts Chuck Sabin, senior director market development of the…

Reinventing Apparel Retail With Real Time Inventory

How will apparel retailers survive in the face of online competition and challenging headwinds?…

Farm to Store with Israel’s Largest Retailer, Shufersal

With over 300 grocery stores across the country, tech savvy Shufersal is outfitting more…

Podcast - The Growing Role Of RTLS In Retail

Marta from ThinkIn and Jesse from Quuppa talk about the benefits RTLS bring for…

2022 Bluetooth® Market Update

Featuring new market insights and industry forecasts from ABI Research and other analyst firms...

Bluetooth Location Services

See 8 use cases for enhancing building efficiencies and creating a better visitor experience, discover new data that supports the latest trends and forecasts, and find out what’s driving the rapid adoption of location services solutions.

Industry 4.0 Fasteners Manufacturing Industry

The manufacturing industry needs digital and innovative solutions to facilitate flexible and transparent production…

 Get Help