A team at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research's (CSIR's) Meraka Institute has developed a novel concept to extend the power consumption of fixed wireless sensor networks. This was unveiled at the CSIR Licensing & Ventures Dragons Den event at the CSIR International Convention Centre on Friday.
"The [global] wireless sensor networks market is worth $29-billion now, and may reach $93-billion by 2023," highlighted CSIR Meraka Institute principal researcher (and team leader) Dr Albert Lysko. "This is a huge market."
Fixed wireless sensor networks are already widely used. "Many applications are challenging or expensive," he pointed out, because of the drain imposed on the power sources used in these networks (usually batteries, sometimes solar panels).
These applications include video transmission, road traffic congestion monitoring, metering and utilities consumption monitoring, precision agriculture, mining and sea buoy data reporting. "We can reduce their power consumption, the energy used for radio transmissions, by using a better (bigger and smarter) antenna system able to focus its transmissions towards the receiver," he affirmed.
Currently, wireless systems employ omnidirectional antennas, which broadcast in every direction, meaning that most of the energy used in transmission is simply wasted.
These antennas are used because they are seen as cheap, and the cost in terms of energy consumption has not been realised.
With the directional antenna that the CSIR Meraka team has developed, initial tests have shown that it can reduce power consumption by between three and 30 times and improve battery longevity by between three and five times. As a result, it would allow the use of smaller (therefore cheaper) batteries or solar panels, or provide longer battery life for larger batteries. It would be also cut maintenance costs by between two to five times.
The team is now looking for an investor to allow the commercialisation of the technology. The aim is to apply the technology to the most popular wireless sensor networking platforms.