Powercast to introduce sensing technology

20th June 2024
Caitlin Gittins

Powercast will introduce a new technology at Sensors Converge next week. 

This innovation has been recognised as a finalist in the Best of Sensors Awards and focuses on creating, deploying, and continuously powering sustainable, untethered, Matter-compliant wireless smart home automation sensors.

These sensors are designed to: 1) integrate seamlessly into smart home ecosystems like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Samsung SmartThings using Matter, 2) be easily installed anywhere, 3) eliminate the need for costly home wiring, 4) avoid the inconvenience and expense of battery maintenance, and 5) prevent disposable batteries from polluting landfills.

Powercast’s Wireless Smart Home Automation Sensor solution is powered continuously by the company's RF (Radio Frequency) over-the-air (OTA) wireless charging technology. To enable sensors to power themselves over the air from nearby RF transmitters, manufacturers can embed Powercast’s compact Powerharvester PCC110 wireless RF receiver chip and a small antenna into their sensors at a cost of approximately $1 per unit in bulk. These sensors can either use a rechargeable battery or function without any battery.

A single RF transmitter can power sensors located up to 25 feet away, meaning placing one transmitter in each room creates a wireless power network capable of perpetually powering all RF-enabled sensors throughout the home. Manufacturers also have the option to integrate the necessary electronics to convert their household products into Ubiquity™ RF transmitters for a bill-of-materials cost of just $5, using a licensable reference design.

“Smart home automation sensors exist, but are limited by wires and disposable batteries,” said Charles Greene, Ph.D., COO and CTO of Powercast. “Powercast’s solution for creating sustainable, untethered wireless sensors eliminates ever having to charge, replace or dispose of batteries because the sensors will be wirelessly charged, perpetually powered, and providing 24/7 intelligence with zero downtime.”

The range for OTA RF charging varies depending on a device’s power consumption. While power-hungry devices need to be closer to a transmitter, ultra-low-power devices like IoT sensors can function up to 120 feet away. Home automation sensors, being low-power devices, are particularly well-suited for OTA charging. Examples include contact sensors (for windows and doors), door locks, temperature sensors, light sensors, humidity sensors, water sensors, motion sensors, and more.

Powercast’s technology is compatible with the Matter smart home connectivity standard and the Thread wireless communication protocol, ensuring device interoperability and easy integration into standard ecosystems like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Samsung SmartThings. Thread utilises the IEEE 802.15.4 mesh network, enabling robust, efficient, low-power communication between devices. Consequently, Thread-compliant devices use less power, making them ideal for OTA charging.

To demonstrate its Best of Sensors finalist technology, Powercast has developed a window sensor, which it will showcase at Sensors Converge. Internal testing of this Powercast-designed, Matter-compliant low-power window sensor has shown that it can charge up to 25 feet away from the transmitter using the Nordic nRF52840 Thread-compliant microcontroller. At this range, the battery will never need replacing.

“Nordic Semiconductor is pleased to collaborate with Powercast on its Matter and Thread-compatible Wireless Smart Home Automation Sensor Technology and Best of Sensors finalist demonstration platform,” said Vince Hagen P.E., Global Business Development Manager, Nordic Semiconductor. “The Nordic nRF52840 System-on-Chip, in conjunction with the Nordic nRF Connect Software Development Kit uniquely supports concurrent wireless connectivity of multiple protocols. The SoC combines a 64MHz, 32-bit Arm Cortex M4 processor with floating point unit (FPU) and 1MB Flash memory and 256kB RAM, plus a 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio that supports Bluetooth 5, ANT, Thread, Matter, Zigbee, IEEE 802.15.4, and proprietary 2.4GHz RF protocol software.”

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