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IRNAS Use Case | Extending battery life for IoT devices in remote areas

IRNAS Use Case | Extending battery life for IoT devices in remote areas

January 12, 2021

There are cases and fields of application where you just need something more specialized and tailored than a product off the rack. Slovenian company IRNAS very much knows this and is developing customer IoT solutions for challenging and remote environments. Focusing mainly on deploying tracking and monitoring systems in areas with very limited access they specialized in high-tech solutions ranging from industrial power-line sensors development, coverage mapping, low power applications, and edge computing off-grid devices for advanced sensors, and image processing in limited bandwidth scenarios.

It doesn’t take much to see that deploying devices in remote environments often comes with major costs and logistical issues. Consequently, it is essential for the provider and customer to deliver a future-proof solution that requires little to no human intervention throughout the product’s life span. Going one step further one could also say that is in everyone’s interest to fully optimize its power consumption. It is especially important to increase its longevity and to make sure that there are no unnecessary battery replacements needed.

“While a battery life counted in decades is already achievable with current technologies, it nevertheless requires a certain time investment. This is where Otii Arc plays a crucial role as a tool to make this process easy.”

IRNAS also started working with alternative power harvesting approaches (e.g., plant power) which produce limited amounts of energy. The power optimization here is absolutely crucial.

IRNAS testing of the PCBs for smart open-source tracking devices for a Smart Parks project. ©IRNAS

We keep power consumption in mind from Day 1. The key is to identify the instances of [device] use where power consumption is not a priority, and then treat it as a top priority everywhere else. 

As important as product longevity is and as essential that batteries don’t just fail unexpectedly, one should not disregard that also the development work needs to be time-efficient. IRNAS is prototyping and developing highly specialized products for their customers and dependent on a smooth and time-optimized workflow. There is nothing worse than to report further delay and inevitably additional costs to the customer. Otii Arc provides insights into what potential drain or even kill a battery throughout the whole development cycle helping them to foresee pitfalls and avoids firefighting. Together with a strategically engineered work environment, a diverse and highly skilled team, and other HW and SW tools, IRNAS seems to have found the perfect setup for a time-efficient workflow. 

“At the end of each of [the design’s] iterative cycles, there is a power consumption optimization step pre-delivery. This way power optimization reaches its optimum at every step of the way and is, therefore, more manageable.”

Every new project usually starts with a bottom-up approach with the first prototype being the simplest version of itself. Creating this MVP easily shows how low they could get in terms of power consumption. This way they can deliver a prototype for a demonstration to the customer, giving the customer the possibility to see and influense how the product will evolve for a specific use case. IRNAS refines then the requirements and adds new features. Using Otii Arc throughout every step is essential here as more features mean more power consumption. Also, any change in HW or SW can unexpectedly affect the battery. You don’t want to add a cool new feature and thereby cut your battery life in half. 

The IRNAS team uses Otii Arc and Otii Automation Toolbox for development and validation purposes daily. Coupled with a programming tool as well as a switchboard designed to manage their power output, they communicate with the Otii TCP server through an API written in Python. This way the team can integrate Otii Arc fully into their work processes and thereby, it fully automates power optimization. Further, they utilize UART communication with Otii to perform more advanced configurations of the power consumption analysis. In particular, for evaluation of an exact period or event during device operation (e.g., energy consumption between two messages).

IRNAS is able to minimize failure rates in the development and in the deployment and consequently, human intervention for solutions deployed in remote environments. Further, they not only save significant costs but also increases the overall quality of their work. Through an optimized development process by monitoring power consumption every step of the way and little to no dependency on external partners, deadlines can be met and customers are satisfied. 

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