How Wireless Power Is Up-Leveling Industrial IoT

Sensors are used to generate data in manufacturing, oil & gas, and agriculture, among other use cases, but a significant barrier prevents wider application.

Wireless power is a game-changer for industrial IoT. Wirelessly charging sensors remove obstacles to deployment, saving time and money, enhancing safety, and strengthening asset management and tracking systems. The result, discusses Hatem Zeine, Founder, President and CTO of Ossia, is that IoT finally lives up to its promise.  

It’s been about 20 years since the Internet of Things (IoT) first came on the scene. Today, sensors are used to generate data in manufacturing, oil & gas, and agriculture, among other use cases. But a significant barrier prevents wider application – the labor, material and infrastructure costs associated with powering multiple sensors. Here’s how wireless power will change that. 

Sustainably Saving Time and Money 

Remote services and preventive maintenance can deliver massive time and money savings by enhancing efficiency, minimizing risks and preventing downtime. Unfortunately, today’s deployment of IoT devices can be unfeasible – high labor costs for wired installations limit the number and thus usefulness of IoT solutions. Batteries are a stop-gap where the environmental impact is severe. In fact, in a recent Sustainalytics report, it was found that going wireless can eliminate between 41,000-83,000 kilotons of hazardous battery waste per year.  

Wirelessly powered sensors can monitor key metrics like pipe pressure, flow rate and other performance indicators, delivering data and triggering alerts when metrics are outside defined parameters. By utilizing wireless power, industrial organizations can increase the number of deployed devices beyond the minimum required for operation and start deploying devices to predict glitches, fatigue and unexpected failures that would be too expensive otherwise to achieve a meaningful ROI. That would lead to a drastic reduction of required manual checks for maintenance issues and the like. 

Since wirelessly powered IoT sensors deliver data that can be monitored 24/7, they can address significant hazards like fuel leakage. Preventing fuel or other hazardous material leakages saves industrial organizations time and money, analyzes environmental damage, and also maps the reputational consequences of a major chemical spill. 

That’s in addition to the benefits of leveraging data to continuously improve efficiency by managing labor costs and maintenance more effectively. The untapped potential of the IoT is enormous. One study estimates that the complete application of IoT in the oil & gas sector alone can be measured in GDP growth valued at up to $816 billion.  

Keeping Employees Safer 

Employee safety is top-of-mind across all industries, and wireless power has the potential to make an impact, keeping employees safer by providing precise data about site conditions and asset locations. Many industrial processes involve hazardous materials. For example, according to OSHA, energy workers are at risk when flammable or poisonous vapors or gases are present, facing the possibility of fire and explosion at the worksite. (Fuel leaks combined with poorly maintained electric wiring can lead to catastrophic results). 

Whether extracting energy from shale or refineries, energy workers need precise measurements and sensors that stream data to help them monitor hazards. The same is true in other sectors where hazardous materials are present. Using wirelessly powered sensors, industrial organizations can receive alerts when conditions change and address potentially dangerous situations.  

Wirelessly powered sensors can also keep employees who work in heavily trafficked areas safer. For example, distribution center trailer yards can be hazardous due to truck traffic. With current data on trailer location from wirelessly powered GPS devices, distribution center employees don’t have to physically locate misplaced trailers by traveling on foot through congested areas. That eliminates a significant risk to workers.  

IoT’s worker safety use cases will continue to grow in the coming years, as new devices come online designed to protect the health, safety, and security of employees deployed across multiple industries. Wireless power will be essential as enterprises look for cost-effective, efficient ways to power these devices without rewiring spaces or buying, deploying and managing batteries.  

Enabling Better Tracking 

Every industrial operation needs to track assets and monitor systems. In some functions, multiple production lines or facilities come into play, with operations at one location in standby mode to allow for the inspection, maintenance and repair of equipment. Downtime for maintenance and repairs, while necessary, affects productivity and prevents the organization from reaching its full potential.  

IoT sensors can help operation leaders meet this challenge. A miniature sensor can generate essential data, feeding information into a cloud-based platform that keeps industrial teams apprised of asset location and equipment status in real-time. Sensors can also help industrial teams monitor the condition of assets, including temperature and sudden shock (drop).  

As the cost of materials and products fluctuates, industries across the board are looking for better ways to cut costs and change course when conditions warrant so that they can maximize agility. Wireless power will make innovative new IoT tracking and monitoring applications feasible virtually everywhere.  

Up-Leveling Industrial IoT  

Industrial IoT is growing. Between 2015 and 2021, the number of devices deployed more than tripled to 12.3 billion, and it is expected to top 27 billion by 2025. The total number includes many different devices, but they all have one thing in common – they require a power source. Disposable and rechargeable batteries and wired power won’t be sufficient. 

Wireless power can keep sensors in factories leveled up as they streamline maintenance by detecting issues before they lead to downtime. It can fuel sensors on energy and agricultural production equipment to allow workers to quickly resolve leaks, prevent damage and keep workers safer by detecting hazards.  

It can do all this while saving time and money and continuously driving efficiency. That’s why going wireless will up-level industrial IoT and power the future.