Solar-powered LoRa IoT node: Nice idea but it won't replace batteries

Welsh firm G24 Power preps sensor tech for trial

A Welsh photovoltaics company has developed a solar-powered LoRa sensor node which it hopes will address current concerns about sensor battery life.

Established Cardiff firm G24 Power, trading as GCell, has mated its light-to-’leccy tech with the LoRa standard to create what it said is a solar-powered LoRa node which will not require batteries.

The node was developed in conjunction with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences’ Institute of Embedded Systems.

“The GCell powered LoRa sensor node transmits hundreds of packets of data daily from outdoor light sources. The node can even transmit every 15 minutes when illumination is as low as 500 lux, lighting levels commonly found in an office or workplace environment,” said the company in a statement.

This, it added, will let user disconnect from mains power and not be "restricted by the limitations of batteries". The idea is that the sensor will be better for the environment and reduce TCO for IoT devices.

The firm said, without giving further specifics, that the Gcell nodes would be tested in a trial environment in early 2017.

Battery lifespan is a worry for Internet of Things advocates generally. While the communications technology and standards have been devised to last for between 10 and 15 years without needing significant maintenance, the lifespan of remote nodes’ batteries is starting to cause concern.

In principle, at least, the idea of solar-powered nodes is good. However, they would need a battery of some sort for energy storage (your nodes won’t only be signalling in daylight or when your factory floor lights are switched on) meaning the battery lifespan problem has just been pushed from a total lifespan (“how many years before you go from full to empty?”) to the problem of finding a battery to attach to the photovoltaic cell with a useful lifespan in terms of duty cycle (“how many times can I charge and discharge this before it’s functionally dead?”). ®




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