The development of IoT requires sensors with a significant autonomy. Among them, cameras play a major role for many applications. Today some battery-powered cameras offer at the best several weeks/months of autonomy. The goal of our project is to design and manufacture a first prototype of a fully self-powered camera.
By eliminating the need for regular recharging and manual intervention, new exciting use cases appear: for instance, coupled with a wireless data acquisition, a camera can be placed in locations that are very difficult to access (inside a building structure, at the top of an electric pylon, in hazardous areas…). Another example is the deployment of applications with many cameras, made economically possible with the deletion of the expensive cost necessary either for the infrastructure (providing power to the cameras) or for maintenance (changing the battery).
This technological step is made possible thanks to the combination of:
– The arrival on the market of new ultra-low power CMOS image sensor (CIS).
– The arrival on the market of energy harvesting electronics components.
– The recent improvement of the indoor and outdoor solar cell efficiency.
– The maturity reached by the ultra-low power hardware design, including the associated wireless standards.
These new components taken separately are quite promising. However, having a low-power high-end image sensor that requires a standard processor to process the images is suboptimal. The ultimate goal is to design a whole low-power camera. This is this project goal, building a new camera based on the latest components available.
This project will include a very innovative CMOS sensor consuming 19 times less energy than the current state of the art image sensor. The energy needed for the application will be harvested from the environment thanks to the latest components developed in this domain.
The proposed camera will not include any battery, this allows to imagine scenarii without any maintenance and to use it in very difficult to access locations.
One obvious use case for this completely novel approach is security. Imagine a remote sensor network deployed over a pipeline in the field and making sure hazardous situations are detected, with dramatically less false positive situations thanks to the image sensor, without the need for a heavy infrastructure and with no maintenance due to battery replacement.
The absence of maintenance is also a very interesting benefit for all the smart home mobile devices. If recharging a camera battery at home seems easy, forgetting to recharge it just makes the application (respiratory monitoring, activity supervision…) useless. This risk is more significant than expected, typically with elderly people.
Moreover, the absence of battery is interesting from an environmental point of view:
– No rare element is needed for its manufacturing.
– No waste will be generated at the end of the product life.