The next stage of evolution for IoT devices, the Ambient IoT refers to a new class of connected devices primarily powered by harvesting energy from any viable ambient source. These devices were built from innovative form factor designs and support low-maintenance or maintenance-free operation.

Recently, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) commissioned ABI Research – a global leader in analyzing, tracking, and forecasting the transformation of the smart device and IoT markets – to establish guidelines for understanding the Ambient IoT and evaluate the role of Bluetooth® technology in addressing Ambient IoT use cases.

Defining the Ambient IoT

The Ambient Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a new class of IoT devices primarily powered by harvesting ambient energy from radio waves, light, motion, heat, or any other viable ambient energy source.

The Ambient IoT is an extension of the existing IoT. Ambient IoT devices carry out many of the same functions as IoT devices and target many of the same use cases but require additional design choices to meet solution demands. By relying on energy harvested from ambient sources, the Ambient IoT makes it possible to develop lower-cost, smaller, and maintenance-free devices, allowing the IoT to become more scalable in existing use cases and in use cases still to be developed. For instance, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), depending on the use case and environment, may choose to make self-sustaining devices, assisted by batteries or capacitors, by powering them with ambient energy. Alternatively, they may decide to go a step further and create battery-free devices with more flexible form factors and a lower bill-of-materials (BOM) cost.

Harvesting energy from ambient sources generates only minimal amounts of power. This creates the inherent requirement for Ambient IoT devices to be less complex and more power efficient. This can be addressed by optimizing the radio protocol and adding features, such as embedded intelligence, to make devices wake up and collect or transmit data less frequently.

Ambient IoT MRN Fig 1
Defining Attributes, IoT Hardware Evolution, and Applications of Ambient IoT (Source: ABI Research)

The market opportunity for this new class of IoT devices is extensive. Ambient energy harvesting devices today are primarily centered on short-range wireless connectivity, particularly Bluetooth® technology. Looking ahead, there is widespread interest in comprehending and aiding the development of this emerging category of devices. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), overseeing cellular standards, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), responsible for Wi-Fi and network standards, and the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), responsible for Bluetooth® technology standards, are engaged in consultations with IoT developers. They aim to explore ways to facilitate the growth of the Ambient IoT. This collaborative effort underscores the cross-industry support and commitment to defining and supporting the Ambient IoT.

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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.

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Why We Need the Ambient IoT

The Ambient IoT addresses the needs of technology adopters by expanding the IoT in directions that are impossible to achieve with traditional devices. Key ways in which the Ambient IoT will contribute to the expansion of the IoT include:

  • Maintenance-Free Devices: Maintaining IoT installations in the field can be a time-consuming and costly exercise, adding a layer of complexity to operations that the IoT is designed to make more efficient. Ambient IoT devices can be deployed in autonomous settings without maintaining a continuous power supply or replacing batteries. Low-maintenance or maintenance-free devices can change paradigms for return-on-investment (ROI) calculations by guaranteeing the longevity of deployments.
  • Low Complexity and Cost: The Ambient IoT continues the trend toward lower cost and simpler devices. By relying primarily on ambient energy sources, the Ambient IoT will encourage the design of devices that communicate less frequently and are designed to fulfill specific functions, driving an evolution away from highly configurable devices streaming real-time data.
  • Sustainable Devices: Replacing batteries, or throwing away battery-powered devices, is a challenge to the sustainable growth of the IoT. According to the European Union (EU)-funded project, EnABLES, a forecasted 78 million batteries will be discarded daily by 2025, assuming an average two-year battery life for IoT devices. Harvesting energy from ambient sources can create longer-lasting and self-sustaining Ambient IoT devices, whether by extending the life of battery- or capacitor-powered devices indefinitely or by removing batteries from devices entirely.

As technologies supporting the Ambient IoT devices mature, and support ambient energy harvesting, use cases outside of goods tracking and monitoring will multiply. Use cases span many vertical markets. In industrial markets, potential use cases involve sensor-based monitoring of machine conditions, equipment status, environmental conditions, or electronic labeling. In commercial markets, use cases include building automation and control, air quality monitoring, and electronic shelf labels (ESLs) in retail markets. In consumer markets, use cases include personal tracking or various home automation systems. As these use cases demonstrate, the Ambient IoT will initially serve existing IoT applications with a new device class. As the market expands, it will help create entirely new application areas. The image below highlights some key statistics for markets that the Ambient IoT can target.

Ambient IoT MRN Fig 3
Ambient IoT Opportunities and Key Market Statistics (Source: ABI Research)

Evolving the IoT

The emergence of Ambient IoT devices represents a significant leap in the evolution of IoT devices, offering a promising future for the IoT ecosystem. By relying on ambient energy sources, the Ambient IoT enables the development of lower-cost, smaller form factor, and maintenance-free devices, thus opening new possibilities for IoT applications across various industries.

The market potential is extensive with early adoption focused on short-range wireless connectivity, particularly Bluetooth® Low Energy (LE) technology. Bluetooth LE will play a central role in the evolution of the Ambient IoT. From a technology perspective, it is a leading, very low-power protocol that supports a wide range of network topologies and is available on many low-cost ICs. From an ecosystem perspective, Bluetooth® LE is an open, standard-backed technology that promises long-term support and feature evolution. Consequently, it has built a large developer base and a ubiquitous installed base of dedicated or multi-use infrastructure, facilitating further solutions built with the technology.

To learn more, read the full report: The Ambient IoT – The Emergence of a New Class of Bluetooth IoT Devices. This report helps define the Ambient IoT and outlines the role Bluetooth technology plays in its evolution.

Read the full report.

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.

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