Feb 1, 2024

15 min read

Batteryless Sensors Are Literally Reshaping The World Around Us

Batteryless IoT represents a quantum leap in the evolution of information technology - batteryless IoT is dramatically changing the way we interact with our devices and by extension, our environments. In this post, we take a look at how this seemingly esoteric sounding technology is actually making its impact felt on the way we go about our workaday lives. From our homes to our workplaces and everything in between, here’s how batteryless sensors are transforming technology and in turn, transforming the shape of our lives.

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The Internet of Things is enabling us to build a connected world - one where the boundaries between the digital and the physical are fast becoming blurred. The core idea that underlies IoT is very simple - any object, device, appliance or system becomes vastly more powerful when it is connected to the internet. Being able to communicate - transmitting and receiving information - in real time, benefits any application immensely. 

Today, thanks to some breakneck innovation in the world of IoT, we have a cornucopia of scarcely believable possibilities opening up all around us. With batteryless IoT increasingly becoming the gold standard, we are starting to witness the true blossoming of connected tech’s immense potential. 

This has led to an enormous increase in the penetration and reach of IoT devices. They have infiltrated nearly every domain of our lives, making their presence felt through the potent transformative and disruptive effect that they have on processes, systems and even entire industries. 


As the Internet of Things enters its prime, we are seeing incredible levels of innovation and ingenuity emerging across various sectors. IoT technology is starting to become indispensable to the way we go about organising the various processes that underlie our societies. 

In this regard, batteryless IoT is definitely a huge step forward. It has dramatically increased the reach and scope of IoT devices, setting them free from the biggest limitation that they had to contend with during their nascent years.

In the early years of IoT technology, there was a lot of optimism about just how many connected devices we’d have in just a few years - some predictions even verged on the fantastical, claiming a trillion connected devices in active use in just a few years. This was not entirely naive optimism either - the sheer scope of the IoT and the nearly endless possibilities it brought to the table were hard to quantify. 

However, we very quickly realised that this explosive growth that was predicted for the Internet of Things was being stymied by a rather difficult problem - of how these devices were going to be powered. 

Batteries presented a number of issues. To start off with, they raised a lot of red flags about their environmental viability, in a climate of ever-increasing awareness about ecological issues and a dire sense of urgency around the topic. It simply didn’t make sense to power a trillion or even a few billion node devices using batteries. Even in the best of cases, batteries would represent a massive waste liability and this was something that was hard to look past. Not to mention the fact that there were also massive concerns about the humanitarian and environmental costs of producing these batteries in the first place. 

After all, the maths is pretty straightforward - if you design a system that uses a large number of battery-powered sensors, you’d have to account for the fact that these batteries would eventually need to be replaced. That represents a logistical and financial burden of significant proportions on the client. This was a huge limiting factor that straitjacketed the growth of IoT. It was imperative that we had to come up with a better alternative. 

It was against this backdrop that batteryless IoT emerged as a viable alternative. Energy harvesting technologies were becoming mature and viable and we started seeing an increasing number of IoT solutions featuring tech like RF energy harvesting and piezoelectric energy harvesting. 

With energy harvesting, we are finally able to create IoT node devices that are self-powered and autonomous. This throws the floodgates wide open in terms of the potential applications we can come up with. Batteryless IoT devices do not come with the same restrictions that battery-powered ones do - they can be deployed pretty much anywhere and more importantly, they don’t demand as much attention and maintenance over their lifetimes. 

This means that we are able to take IoT technology where we couldn’t before - for example, imagine a smart wind farm that uses hundreds of IoT nodes to measure various parameters such as wind speed, humidity levels etc - thanks to batteryless sensors, we are able to deploy these sensors on top of windmills, hilltops, tree-tops - you name it!

Reshaping The World Around Us

Batteryless IoT technology is quietly reshaping the very way we interact with our environments, transforming the look and feel of our everyday lives in the process. Self-powered IoT, unlike other technological revolutions of the past, is notable in that it is unobtrusive and inconspicuous - often, disappearing entirely from our line of vision. 

They make their presence felt more through the seamlessness that they enable. From smart homes that are able to calibrate themselves behind the scenes to make our lives better to wearable devices that are always on, working in the background, batteryless IoT has well and truly started to become an integral player in our day-to-day lives. 

1. Living Spaces

This is probably the lowest hanging fruit to talk about when we look at how batteryless IoT is transforming our environments. IoT-based smart home technologies are directly changing the landscape of our living and work spaces, changing the way they look, feel and interact with us. 

Batteryless IoT devices integrate into homes, offices and other spaces in an inconspicuous and almost invisible way, performing a wide range of functions that are aimed at making spaces more livable, sustainable and intelligent. As such, smart home technologies have matured in leaps and bounds over the last few years and are now able to offer a comprehensive suite of features. 

The underlying theme is that of seamlessness - eliminating friction, as it were. With batteryless IoT, we will be able to navigate our living spaces with an incredible level of ease and comfort. Imagine this - you wake up in the morning and just snap your fingers to turn off your alarm clock; you wave your hand and that turns on your lights to just the right level of brightness, while your air conditioning unit adjusts the ambient temperature progressively, using data from your sleep/health tracker. All this is done in real-time, behind the scenes. You ask your digital assistant to play the track that you think is going to be just right.This is exactly the kind of seamless gesture and voice control that batteryless IoT enables. This kind of automation is the future of smart home technology - making for increased levels of comfort and convenience while also making sure energy expenditure is optimised. 

It’s not just that - there is an aesthetic component to this as well. Batteryless IoT allows for more discreet and minimalistic designs that don’t contribute to clutter. 

These ideas may seem far-fetched at first glance but in reality, this is all tech that’s in the market already. The same holds true for other spaces such as commercial environments, healthcare establishments, retail outlets etc. Batteryless IoT is paving the way for a future where we interact with our spaces in an intuitive, hands-on and friction-free fashion, blurring the lines between the physical and digital worlds to a large extent.

2. Fashion and Wearables 

This is the next big way in which batteryless IoT is changing the look and feel of our day-to-day. With batteryless apparel and wearables, we are able to harness the power of continuous health and fitness tracking without any “charge anxiety” to contend with. 

Imagine smart watches, fitness trackers, health devices or even smart clothing that can power themselves perpetually, so you never have to worry about charging them. These devices could change the way we relate to healthcare and health monitoring. 

The possibilities are truly immense - imagine clothing fitted with batteryless sensors that change colours or patterns in real-time, in keeping with your mood and energy levels. We are already at a place where we can conceive of bringing these kinds of products into the market. 

The same holds true for health monitoring devices as well. Batteryless technology enables us to create always-on health trackers that are able to continuously monitor parameters such as blood glucose levels, body temperature etc. 

So, how would this work? Imagine this - your diabetic grandmother just wears a watch or a plaster on her hands and this device, fitted with batteryless microcontrollers, would monitor her blood glucose levels continuously in real time and relay the information right to your smartphone. Wouldn’t that be neat? Continuous monitoring is another batteryless-IoT enabled technology that is making huge waves in the health and wellness industry. Quite a few product-ideas have been successfully implemented in recent years, including continuous temperature monitoring, batteryless fall sensors and ECG monitors. 

These use-cases are a direct result of the emergence of energy harvesting technology as the IoT power solution of choice. They simply wouldn’t be possible with battery-based IoT. 

The same is true with other kinds of wearable devices, including fitness trackers, sleep monitors etc. The core idea remains the same - when the battery is eliminated, the true power of IoT can be unleashed and a whole new level of innovation can be unleashed in the design and functionality of these products. A number of novel ideas for implantable devices have emerged, trying to harness the power of batteryless IoT technology. 

3. Smart Transport

Transport forms a key point of interaction between people and their immediate environment. In the modern world, we find ourselves spending quite a significant chunk of our time commuting from one place to another. It makes sense then that innovations in this space can go a long way towards improving our quality of life. 

Our cars are becoming increasingly smarter, often shipping with an entire suite of advanced sensors that relay a host of data points aimed at making them safer and more intuitive to interact with. Let’s look at the low hanging fruit - tyre pressure monitoring systems, brake pad wear sensors, fluid level monitoring systems etc - these have all been standard fitments on cars for a while now. These functionalities benefit immensely from batteryless IoT. 

Now, onto the more advanced stuff - with batteryless IoT, we are able to envision a future where connected cars and smart cities work in tandem to improve road safety and efficiency. Features like self-parking and real-time traffic updates sound futuristic but are already very much capabilities that we are able to bring to life. Predictive maintenance is another big frontier for batteryless IoT - with batteryless sensors, we are able to fabricate elaborate predictive maintenance systems that are self-powered and seamlessly integrate into cars. These systems are able to alert us about impending part failures and breakdowns well in advance, saving us incredible amounts of time and money in the long run. 

This shift towards connected transportation extends well beyond cars too - imagine scooters, motorcycles and mopeds that are fitted with self-powered headlamps and safety systems. Or better yet, interactive ticketing systems on public transport that double up as personalised information systems, communicating with your smartphone and delivering real-time updates. Imagine a bespoke climate control system that adjusts parameters like seat temperature and lighting levels to your preference - these are just a few of the innovations that batteryless IoT could enable in the sphere of transportation. 

In the near future, we are looking at more innovation emerging in this space - the sky is truly the limit for what we can come up with. 

4. Retail and Shopping

The internet changed the way we looked for and purchased things in quite an unmissable way. Today, e-retail is a massive, multi-billion dollar industry that doesn’t seem to be slowing down. However, with batteryless IoT, brick and mortar retail seems to be all set for a dramatic makeover. 

This is a sector that’s seeing some pretty overhauls thanks to the mass proliferation of IoT-based tech standards. Smart inventory management is something that’s becoming increasingly commonplace today - batteryless sensors placed on store shelves are being used to track inventory in real-time, making sure store shelves are well stocked, alerting the management about items that need to be replaced. They are also being leveraged to offer customers a more intuitive and engaging shopping experience. 

Imagine this, you walk into a store and you are greeted by a digital shopping assistant who takes you on a personalised shopping journey - offering you helpful suggestions and relevant information discreetly. This might sound very sci-fi but this kind of technology is already here today. Augmented reality powered by batteryless IoT makes it possible for retailers to offer their customers a futuristic and intuitive shopping experience that makes customers want to come back for more. After all, it was only a matter of time before retailers caught on with the fact that they were going to have to bring some serious value to the table if they were to compete with e-retail for the same customers. 

Interactive displays and electronic shelf labels, powered by batteryless IoT sensors, are being used to provide an augmented reality experience to customers in stores. Again, much like in the earlier use cases, self-powered IoT allows retailers to save a ton of money and labour while offering their customers a truly 21st century in-store experience. 

Last year, we launched our very own product in this sector, our batteryless ESL, powered by ONiO.Zero. Our ESL has the potential to save millions of batteries from ending up in landfills. This is just another example of how batteryless IoT can bring incredible value to the table in most use-cases, while also being the greener and more ecologically sensible option.  

5. Towns and Cities

Batteryless IoT is being leveraged to make cities smarter, in turn offering residents a more livable, efficient and sustainable experience. The term smart city, contrary to popular perception, actually refers to a wide range of possible technologies that are based on IoT. 

For instance, smart traffic management systems are a common smart city feature - they use batteryless sensors placed around the city to create a comprehensive real-time map of city traffic, offering users access to this information in order to ease congestion. 

In the near future you could see interactive waste disposal units that are able to guide you on the best-practices for disposing off your trash - enabling sustainability and backend efficiency in the process. The idea with these kinds of smart city solutions is to enable friction free interaction between city dwellers and their environments, turning urban environments more clean and green, as a result. 

Park benches in the near future could offer a host of thoughtful functionalities such as phone charging, WiFi or even HUDs that offer useful information. Very soon we could also see the rise of interactive public installations that use batteryless sensors to interact with passersby. They could change colours and play various kinds of music in keeping with weather conditions, traffic flow etc or even provide relevant information on crowd levels, impending rain or upcoming events. 

The scale of these kinds of set-ups necessitates a batteryless solution. It would make no sense to fit an entire city with thousands of sensors only to have to plan periodic maintenance or battery replacements. Needless to say, there is also the recurring cost that needs to be accounted for. So you see why these kinds of solutions are really only starting to take off now, after the advent of energy-harvesting powered batteryless IoT. 

6. Entertainment, Play and Recreation

This one’s a no brainer - interactivity and novel means of user engagement are probably more crucial to the entertainment industry than any other. 

Picture a theme park that uses augmented reality to offer a fully immersive and uninterrupted experience - it’s quite easy to see how that would be a massive hit among kids. Today, we are witnessing this happening in a number of ways. 

The entertainment and recreation industry is evolving in double quick time powered by batteryless IoT enabled solutions - sports equipment, toys, hobbyist gear, theme parks, gaming platforms - you name it - there is literally no vertical in this industry that can afford to pass up on the capabilities that batteryless IoT brings. 

The way we interact with the world for leisure and fun is all set to change dramatically in the next few years. Batteryless sensors will enable VR and AR headsets to run perpetually without the need for charging - this means that you will be able to immerse yourself into the fantasy world of your choice for extended periods of time, enhancing the depth, feel and texture of the gaming experience. The same is also true for other gaming accessories which could all be made more responsive and power-efficient using batteryless IoT. 

The kids of tomorrow could have access to an endless array of futuristic toys and learning equipment that feature batteryless IoT technology. Using self-powered connected tech, they would be able to offer bespoke learning experiences that suit the child’s temperament and learning style, even calibrating their gaming environments to a large degree. Ambient gaming rooms could adjust the lighting, sound levels and temperature to facilitate the learning process and make it as seamless as possible. 


We are witnessing a new world dawning upon us - a world where the boundaries between the physical and the digital are fast fading away, giving rise to an unprecedented level of interactivity, seamlessness and connectedness. 

We are entering an era where the millions of objects that make up our everyday lives will be able to hum and sing together, creating a web of possibilities. The power and capability that batteryless IoT gives us is truly spectacular - it’s up to us to find ways to employ this capability in the best possible ways, in order to usher in outcomes that are truly good for us as a whole. 

After all, we’re facing a number of existential issues as a humanity that threaten the very foundations of our life on this planet. In this regard too, batteryless IoT technology bears a lot of promise - embracing self-powered IoT will help us make a serious dent in the truly egregious number of batteries that end up in landfills and oceans every year. Granted this may not quite be the comprehensive solution for all our ecological woes but it sure is a decisive step in the right direction. 

Technology can be a massive power for good in the world, and batteryless IoT is no exception. Whether we like it or not, the world around us is being reshaped in truly  unimaginable ways. The opportunities for sustainability and holistic development are truly exciting - the future in many ways can be super exciting if we choose to do the right things with the capabilities that these modern technologies confer us with.

About the author

Abishek Swaminathen

Senior Content Manager

Abishek is ONiO’s senior content manager. A medical doctor by profession, he stumbled onto a writing career almost by accident, as it were. Words have enthralled Abishek since the day he first held a book and at ONiO, he channels his inner wordsmith towards providing our subscribers with regular doses of fun and informative content.

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