The beacon is flexible enough to be wrapped around round objects, corners, and curves and it is solely powered by an integrated solar cell.
Previously, beacons that did not require battery replacement needed power-supply components, such as power-management ICs and secondary batteries, as control circuits to ensure adequate power on activation. These components, which are relatively thick and occupy a large area, make the beacons themselves rigid and large, limiting locations to which they can be attached, explain the researchers in a press release.
Such thin beacons could be attached to fluorescent bulbs in a ceiling, or to the surface of an LED light, hence doubling lights as information points, for guidance or any other purpose (for example when installed in parking lots together with sensors to detect available space).
For this flexible autonomous beacon, Fujitsu Laboratories has developed power-control technology that temporarily deactivates the power monitor once it has detected that enough energy has been accumulated. The saved power makes it possible to supply the power needed to activate the wireless-communications module using a small storage element connected to a solar cell, only one-ninth the size of those used with previous technologies, according the Japanese lab. Reducing the power consumed just before starting communications also has the effect of reducing voltage fluctuations when power is being used, obviating the need for a power-management IC.
Fujitsu is currently conducting field testing to establish the beacon's reliability and continuous operation, hoping to have a commercial product by 2016.
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