Building a More Sustainable, Connected World with xG22E

04/22/2024 | Silicon Labs | 3 Min Read

In today’s sustainability-conscious world, where being carbon-neutral is an imperative for companies, consumers, and countries as they grapple with an ever-increasing energy demand driven by increasing urbanization, it has become essential to adopt technology solutions that both minimize waste and provide energy efficient benefits to their users. The Internet of Things is being challenged to embrace this shift.

Batteries are Just Not It…

When we think of IoT, we think of a seamlessly connected world powered by smart, innovative devices.

But what do these devices need to maintain this connectivity? The simplest answer would be – a power source, which in most cases is a traditional battery.

While batteries do the job and serve their purpose, they do have their drawbacks.

Every year, more than 15 billion used batteries find their way to landfills. This leads to the release of about 900,000 tons of hazardous, soil-and-groundwater polluting waste. Moreover, in the US alone, an average household buys over 90 batteries annually and most of them do not even have a 10-year lifetime. By 2025, about 25 billion IoT devices are predicted to be in operation, and these would require 6 million battery replacements every day.

This points to three major issues with traditional batteries - inconvenient and improper disposal practices, incessant replacement, and scalability issues. These pitfalls not only adversely impact the functionality and reliability of these devices, but also hinder the shift of smart IoT applications towards a battery-free, energy-aware future. Ambient IoT: a new class of connected devices.

Ambient IoT -  A New Class of Connected Devices

To combat the challenges that traditional batteries pose to device -makers, and to minimize the threat that a more seamlessly connected world poses to the environment and the ecosystems, we now have a new and emerging class of connected devices – collectively referred to as Ambient IoT.

Ambient IoT refers to the class of IoT devices that rely on naturally available energy sources such as magnetic and electric fields, light, heat, kinetic energy, and sound to power them.

This method of extracting operating power from ambient sources of energy that are all around us eliminates the need to use batteries in IoT devices.

With Ambient IoT, our beloved smart devices can now rely on natural sources of energy to draw power and maintain connectivity, instead of relying on conventional batteries. These sources (like light, heat, motion, etc.) extend the device’s lifetime, and notably reduce the detrimental impact that batteries have on the environment.

Introducing the xG22E SoC for Energy Harvesting

At Silicon Labs, we are the leaders of innovation and all things IoT. Our mission is to empower developers to create wirelessly connected devices that transform industries, grow economies, and change lives. Today on Earth Day, we are taking the first step towards promoting the idea of a connected yet sustainable future. We have now optimized our xG22 line of SoCs to include features that will support energy harvesting. Our new energy-optimized xG22E SoC family of SoCs is here to support all your device’s energy conservation needs.

This power packed MCU offers an 8ms Power-on-Reset (PoR) that consumes just 150 micro-Joules (µJ), and an EM4 wake up in just 1.83 milliseconds that consumes a mere 16.6 µJ of energy. Furthermore, it provides the highest RF performance, multi-protocol support and 2.4GHz operation. It also supports multiple power sources and power management devices, allowing the user to explore new battery technologies like super capacitors.

With ultra-fast, low-energy cold start, low-energy deep-sleep wake up, and efficient energy mode transitions that mitigate harmful current spikes and prevent damage to the storage cells, the EFR32xG22E is one of the most reliable wireless long-range SoCs in the market.

Where Can I Use the xG22E Energy-Optimized SoC?

Some of the most common applications seen in the market today for the xG22E SoC include:

  • Smart Home and Appliances: In Zigbee smart home appliances such as doors, faucets, and switches, battery dependencies and their associated replacement costs can be eliminated by using power harvesting generators.
  • Gaming Electronics: Indoor solar powered television remote controls, and computer keyboards require an energy-efficient and cost-efficient Bluetooth LE SoC.
  • Smart Buildings: Kinetic pulse harvesting for battery-less doorknobs and light switch controls using xG22E Zigbee Green Power helps decrease the need to constantly replace batteries.

Some other key applications include tire pressure monitor sensors, asset tracking, ESLs, factory automation, predictive maintenance, and agriculture.

Taking a Step Further: Silicon Labs and e-peas

To help device manufacturers build a complete energy harvesting solution, Silicon Labs is partnering with e-peas, a provider of industry-leading Power Management Integrated Circuits (PMICs) designed for energy harvesting, - to co-develop a cutting-edge kit of energy harvesting shields for the new power-optimized xG22E Explorer Kit.

This kit comes with three dedicated shields that fit snuggly onto the Explorer Kit board which has been optimized to isolate any power leakages and facilitate external measurements. The first shield allows for experimentation with alternative battery chemistries and supercapacitors and provides developers with multiple test-points. The second shield is dedicated for kinetic/pulse harvest applications and uses e-peas AEM0300 PMIC for power buck and provides multiple external measurement test-points. The third shield uses e-peas' latest and most advanced PMIC, AEM13920. This shield allows developers to experiment with dual harvest sources simultaneously.

This kit comes with a host of revisited sample applications for Bluetooth and Zigbee Green Power and provides instructions on how to set up the PMIC and optimize code for energy-based decision-making.

Launch Timeline for xG22E SoCs for Energy Harvesting

In keeping with Silicon Labs’ vision for a cleaner and greener planet, we are marking Earth Day by early announcing the xG22E so designers can start prototyping energy harvesting applications. On May 9 Silicon Labs is hosting an unboxing Tech Talk in collaboration with our partner, e-peas. We anticipate that xG22E will become generally available in June this year.

Register for the Tech Talk here, and learn more about energy harvesting.

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