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Randy Frank is the principal of Randy Frank & Associates, Ltd., a technical marketing consulting firm based in Scottsdale, AZ. Randy is an SAE and IEEE Fellow and has been involved in automotive electronics for more than 25 years. He can be reached at the e-mail address [email protected].
Of course. However, the conversion process to get useful electricity certainly is not. Also, several design considerations must be taken into account to ensure a system’s success. This includes thinking differently about power consumption.
Distributed wireless sensing gets even more attractive if frequent battery changes can be eliminated. That’s the whole idea behind energy harvesting (EH). Depending on the system design and the type of energy source used, EH enables the design of wireless sensor nodes to provide data for remote monitoring and control in a variety of areas, without having to consider questions of battery life and replacement.
The synergy between wireless, portable sensor products, and energy harvesting has created one of the newest hot topic areas in sensing. Today, the potential for free energy certainly gets engineers' attention. However, the broad range of market possibilities discussed for its near-term usage is also important since it includes interesting high-volume applications in home and building automation, industrial process/automated meter reading, medical, military, automotive/tire pressure sensors, radio frequency ID, and others.
Sensor applications that normally rely on battery power, especially wireless sensors, are limited by the battery's life or its need for recharging. Using power available from the environment, such as mechanical energy from vibration and wind, sunlight, or temperature differences, several companies are changing the rules for system design.
Designers of automotive electronics and their automotive customers have truly challenging requirements for sensor suppliers but usually have several suppliers who are more than capable of meeting them. These high-volume applications attract sensor manufacturers who compete with product differentiation and cost to win the design. For example, the most popular vehicle in America, the Ford F-150, has 50 sensors of various types performing functions in powertrain, safety, comfort, and other systems.