Eliminating Friction With Batteryless IoT
As is the case with nearly everything, there are a number of challenges that the world of IoT and connected technologies face - none bigger than the question of how they will be powered in the future. It became very clear to us as far back as a decade ago that batteries were simply not the answer.
You see, the IoT, by design, is intended to be a sprawling network of widely distributed nodes - there is simply no other way. The whole point of IoT is to create an information processing network that is not limited by traditional constraints of large computing devices - it’s IoT’s raison d'être - IoT technology is at its best when networks are large and spread out over large areas, with as many nodes as is required.
This turned out to be the problem with battery-powered IoT - there was simply no way we could unleash the full potential of this technology when we had to watch our steps and be mindful of potential battery replacements. That’s primarily why there was such an urgent need to identify a more elegant power solution for IoT devices - and we got it.
In recent years, energy harvesting has become the gold standard for IoT power solutions - they are simply better in every way compared to the traditional battery-based option - they are cheaper, easier to maintain and more environmentally friendly. They are more discrete and don’t come with constraining limits on how and where they can be deployed. These are all great things and we’ve covered all this in detail ourselves, several times in the past.
Batteries Are A Pain
In the past, we’ve written a number of times about how batteries make no sense ecologically. Most modern batteries are of the Li-ion kind, which require rare minerals like Lithium and Cobalt. These minerals are concentrated across a very narrow range of locations on our planet and therefore, mining for these minerals places an enormous amount of pressure on these ecosystems.
Cobalt, for instance, is notorious for being mined by child miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Moreover, mining these minerals has profoundly adverse effects on the health of the water and soil in these areas. That’s a lot of pain that our planet has to endure just to churn out these batteries - but, it doesn’t end there.
When these batteries end their life cycles, they need to be discarded. That comes with its very own list of catastrophic effects on the environment. Most used batteries end up in landfills and oceans. Imagine billions of dead batteries ending up in our oceans, year on year. Sounds truly terrifying doesn’t it?
But we know all this. We’ve spoken about it multiple times in the past. Today, we want to focus on an entirely different aspect of why batteries are not a tenable power solution for IoT devices - that is user experience.
Batteries cause a ton of friction to users. That’s something that no business wants for their customers. After all, nothing makes a business or a product quite as desirable to consumers than ease of use. Products, in fact, are only bought on the presumption that they remove friction from some part of our lives - when they bring a bunch of friction themselves, there’s nothing quite as irritating.
Imagine this, you are sitting with that freshly made bowl of popcorn, all eager to catch the season defining game of your favourite sports team - you’ve been prepping for this day for weeks. You’ve put in extra hours at work, sent off your sports-hating wife on a spa day and you’ve even managed to get your posse together for the big day. Now, imagine if your remote control decided to die on you just as the game was about to kick off - wouldn’t that just send you on a tailspin of rage and irritation?
Granted, in the grand scheme of things - this is probably not a huge setback - you just need to run to the nearest store and grab a couple of AAs. But that’s not the point. The product could have still done better in terms of giving you a better and more frictionless user-experience.
Nobody likes batteries dying on them. With most of our modern consumer electronics, at least there is the saving grace of rechargeable batteries that also let you know when they are going to die. But with a bunch of devices around us, this is not the case.
With mouse controls, keyboards, remote controls and pretty much every other appliance that uses disposable batteries, this pain point is still very much a reality.
Batteryless Is The Answer
This is probably the most underrated benefit that batteryless IoT brings to the table. With batteryless IoT devices, there is simply no need for battery replacements. That might not seem like much to begin with - but in the right circumstances, it can be the difference between you flying off into fits of anger or just carrying on with your plans, as you’d imagined.
Companies are always looking for ways to make their products more usable. Less painful to use. When a consumer faces multiple pain points in their interaction with a product, that’s not good for business. From the business’ point of view, the more they can remove friction from the user’s interaction with the product, the better their users’ satisfaction with the business is going to be - as simple as that.
And there you go - that’s yet another reason to go batteryless!