"Energy harvesting" is the capture of ambient energy, its conversion into a usable form, and its storage for immediate or future use. The types of ambient power that can be harvested include light, heat, motion, vibration, and RF. According to the latest ABI Research report, this type of energy is viable for M2M applications.
Examples of energy harvesting that have been around for decades include solar-powered calculators, wristwatches powered by body motion, and bicycle lights powered by a generator or dynamo run by friction with the wheel.
Over the last decade, interest in energy harvesting has increased because of its environmental friendliness and its ability to power devices without electric wires, extending the life of batteries (or eliminating them entirely) and decreasing maintenance.
In its new study “Energy Harvesting for M2M Devices,” ABI Research has determined that the market for energy harvesting systems totaled just $3.82 million in 2009, and that it will reach $418 million by 2016. If energy harvesting development kits are included, the 2009 market exceeded $12.7 million, and will reach approach $480 million by 2016.
Larry Fisher, research director of NextGen--ABI’s emerging technologies research incubator--commented “because ambient power is scavenged in milliwatts or even microwatts, energy harvesting is best used for small, wireless, autonomous devices that can function on an ultra-low-power basis. This makes it clearly applicable to Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN), which are the next step in the evolution of automating buildings, utilities, factories, homes and transportation systems. Wireless sensors can be spread throughout a home or building, in factories or on bridges or other structures to monitor environmental or other conditions; if they’re powered by energy harvesting, there are no batteries to replace and no labor costs associated with replacing them.”
Fisher adds, “The market for energy harvesting is still in the very early stages of development, while R&D and prototyping of systems continue to prove their reliability and economic value compared to battery-powered systems.”