Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

OnSemi IoT platform powered solely by solar cell

Steve Rogerson
April 16, 2019

Arizona electronics company On Semiconductor is helping enable battery-less and maintenance-free IoT with the introduction of its RSL10 multi-sensor platform powered solely with a solar cell.
This supports the development of IoT sensors using continuous solar energy harvesting to gather and communicate data through Bluetooth Low Energy, without the need for batteries or other forms of non-renewable energy.
The combination of low-power wireless communications, small form-factor solar cell and low duty cycle sensing applications makes it possible to develop and deploy maintenance-free IoT sensor nodes. The platform is enabled by the RSL10 system-in-package (SiP) with radio, integrated antenna and all passive components.
The platform combines the SiP with a solar cell and a host of low power sensors from Bosch Sensortec, including the BME280 all-in-one environmental sensor (pressure, temperature and humidity) and the BMA400 low-power three-axis accelerometer. Together, they will let developers and manufacturers create complete IoT nodes that are entirely powered through renewable energy or energy harvested from the sensor’s surroundings. 
“After the success of the RSL10 sensor development kit, we are thrilled to work with On Semiconductor on a new cutting-edge sensor development platform that is entirely solar powered,” said Peter Weigand, vice president of marketing at Bosch Sensortec. “The BMA400 is the first real ultra-low-power accelerometer that doesn’t compromise on performance. Combined with the BME280 integrated environmental sensor, this provides comprehensive sensing for IoT applications such as climate control, intrusion detection and asset tracking.”
There are a growing number of IoT sensor applications where the duty cycle is low enough to support intermittent communications, allowing the energy needed to support operation to be harvested using renewable sources. The energy efficiency of the RSL10 is augmented by the power management system and the low-power sensors implemented in the platform. Applications are expected to include smart home and building automation such as HVAC control, window and door sensors, and air quality monitoring. Asset tracking including package open-close detection, shock monitoring, and temperature and humidity data logging are also possible applications.
“To support the growth of IoT, manufacturers are actively investigating alternative sources of energy to power their designs, helping to reduce environmental impact and lower manufacturing and maintenance costs,” said Wiren Perera, who heads IoT at On Semiconductor. “With this solution, established on the RSL10 Bluetooth Low Energy radio, we are proving that a battery-free and maintenance-free approach to smart sensor development is not only possible but can help manufacturers improve their designs.”
For easy development, the platform is supplied with all design files (Gerber, schematic and BoM) and customisable source code as part of a CMSIS software package. The platform is available now from On Semiconductor alongside a number of other energy-efficient rapid prototyping platforms for IoT, including an energy-harvesting Bluetooth Low Energy switch.