Ten-year battery life for “internet of things” devices

The internet of things has been much-hyped for years but has been held back by restrictive power consumption in connected devices, among other things. Now an industry standard looks set to address the issue of power-hungry connected widgets.

Ten-year battery life for

Backed by ARM and Cable and Wireless Worldwide, the Weightless wireless standard is intended to become a global standard for machine-to-machine communications over a WAN.

According to ARM, which hopes to provide the silicon platform for many connected devices, the technology being developed by the group will lead to a chipset costing under $2 with a range of up to 10km and battery life of ten years.

That would mean devices as diverse as shopping trolleys and water-level monitoring equipment could be hooked up the the web to improve controls and provide more information to remote locations.

It’s about saving energy – we need to be able to take more control of that

ARM said the connectivity across smart grids would mean “enhanced healthcare, smart cities, asset tracking, sensors and future applications as yet unimagined”.

“There are already millions of device-to-device connections, but that’s going to be dwarfed by the numbers of devices we’re going to see,” Gary Atkinson, ARM’s head of embedded computing told PC Pro recently. “It’s about saving energy – we need to be able to take more control of that.”

Low-power technology

Although the technology isn’t new – Cambridge company Neul launched it last year – the commitment from a company of ARM’s clout and the newly announced Special Interest Group are a fillip for the fledgling protocol.

Key to Weightless is a lower power drain, meaning sensors in remote locations don’t require power supplies or regular visits from engineers to replace batteries.

Operating in the free-to-use white space between televisions channels – a slice of spectrum that’s also been put forward for broadband delivery – the system lowers power consumption by only polling connections every 15 minutes, with machine-to-machine communications seen as less urgent in some applications.

With a transfer rate maxing out at 16Mbits/sec, users are expected to have to pay around $10 a year for a connection between devices.

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