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The Internet of Things: The Power Struggle
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The Internet of Things: The Power Struggle - Executive Leadership Articles

The Internet of Things: The Power Struggle

Executive Leadership Articles

The Internet of Things: The Power Struggle

In the stampede to get everything in our lives connected with everything else, most of the commentary has centered around the issues of security and standardization: will Product X connect to Smart Speaker Y, and how secure will they be from snoopers? Clearly, these are serious concerns, but very little attention seems to be given to the issue of power, which on a practical level affects every device in existence or development.

So far, devices on the Internet of Things need some kind of power source. Wireless headphones need to be charged. Smart speakers are plugged into an electrical outlet. Many devices, such as wireless keyboards, require replaceable batteries. For the most part, these are our options, and this reality affects how extensively the IoT can actually come into our lives. There’s a reason home security systems, thermostats, lighting, and audio are the thriving products in the still-emerging IoT market: they can easily be plugged into a home power source. Thermostats and lighting are already plugged in, so devices simply need to replace existing products.

On the consumer end, we don’t think about this issue very much because so many of our devices don’t require constant power, or they can be recharged with little inconvenience. Our bluetooth earbuds go into their charger while we’re sleeping, for example, right alongside our phones. Other devices tell us they need new batteries by no longer working, and while that’s fine for keyboards or toothbrushes, it’s somewhat less than desirable for security cameras or locks on our front doors.

This is where the power issue is a real restriction. Imagine what we might do if power were no consideration at all. A drone quadcopter could keep an eye on things in a round-the-clock low hover over a property, for instance, or driverless buses could take us cross-country without stopping. Tracking devices for hikers and campers might save more lives than they already do. Fitness trackers could update our data in real time without syncing. And these are merely adaptations of existing technology. Removing the power struggle can change our concept entirely, opening the doors to radical new ideas by truly creative inventors.

We’ve discussed before the possible game-changing of wireless charging, either by magnetic induction (as with those charging mats that will soon be ubiquitous) or by electromagnetic waves. Each has possibilities and obstacles, however, which is one reason we aren’t already using them for everything. Those charging mats require proximity, and they themselves need a power source. Sure, you can charge an entire family’s arsenal of devices with one mat plugged into one source, but they’ll all have to be right on the mat (or at least close to it) to take advantage. Electromagnetic waves don’t require this kind of proximity, but they are an inefficient use of energy, unless the waves are focused or contained somehow.

Both methods of wireless charging come with possible safety concerns. Heck, we don’t honestly know the effects of long-term cellphone use, which is why many of us don’t keep our smartphones in our front pockets. Perhaps the phones are harmless, but we don’t know that yet, so in the meantime, we keep them away from our vital organs if we can.

Bridging the power gap will not only improve the functionality of IoT uses already in existence, but it will lead to completely new uses we can’t even conceive of today.

 

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The Internet of Things: The Power Struggle - Executive Leadership Articles

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