Powercast, Nordic team for Matter energy harvesting smart home sensors

Powercast, Nordic team for Matter energy harvesting smart home sensors

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Powercast has teamed up with Nordic Semiconductor to power untethered RF energy harvesting sensors that are compatible with the Matter smart home protocol.

The sensors integrate into smart home ecosystems such as Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Samsung SmartThings) using Matter and use the RF energy harvesting from Powercast to run battery-free.

The Powercast Wireless Smart Home Automation Sensor design embeds the Powerharvester PCC110 wireless RF receiver chip and a small antenna into a sensor for around $1 at volume, then uses a rechargeable battery or no battery at all.

The Powerharvester PCC110 receiver chip (in a SC-70 package) operates across a wide RF power (-17 to +20dBm) and frequency (10MHz to 6GHz) range to convert RF to DC with up to 75 percent efficiency.

Powercast developed a window sensor it will demonstrate at the Sensors Converge show in Santa Clara, California next week. Internal testing on the sensor showed it can charge up to 8m away from the transmitter using the Nordic nRF52840 Thread-complaint microcontroller. At this distance, the battery will never have to be replaced.

“Nordic Semiconductor is pleased to collaborate with Powercast on its Matter and Thread-compatible Wireless Smart Home Automation Sensor Technology and Best of Sensors finalist demonstration platform,” said Vince Hagen, Global Business Development Manager at Nordic Semiconductor.

“The Nordic nRF52840 System-on-Chip, in conjunction with the Nordic nRF Connect Software Development Kit uniquely supports concurrent wireless connectivity of multiple protocols. The SoC combines a 64MHz, ARM Cortex M4 processor with floating point unit (FPU) and 1MB Flash memory and 256kB RAM, plus a 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio that supports Bluetooth 5, ANT, Thread, Matter, Zigbee, IEEE 802.15.4, and proprietary 2.4GHz RF protocol software.”

One RF transmitter in a room can power sensors installed up to 25 feet away, so placing one transmitter in each room will create a wireless power network able to perpetually power all the RF-enabled sensors throughout the home. There are also options for RF transmitters, including a licensable reference design that lets manufacturers integrate the electronics needed to convert their household products into Ubiquity RF transmitters for a bill of materials of $5.

“Smart home automation sensors exist, but are limited by wires and disposable batteries,” said Dr Charles Greene, COO and CTO of Powercast. “Powercast’s solution for creating sustainable, untethered wireless sensors eliminates ever having to charge, replace or dispose of batteries because the sensors will be wirelessly charged, perpetually powered, and providing 24/7 intelligence with zero downtime.”

The range for the RF charging depends on how much power a device consumes; power-hungry devices must be closer to a transmitter while ultra-low-power devices like IoT sensors can work up to 40m away. Home automation sensors monitoring such as door locks, temperature, light, motion and humidity are low-power devices and so are suitable candidates for OTA charging.

Powercast’s technology works with the Matter smart home connectivity standard and Thread wireless communication protocol, which ensures interoperability between devices and allows easy integration into industry-standard ecosystems. Because Thread uses the IEEE 802.15.4 mesh network which enables robust, efficient, low-power communication between devices, Thread-compliant devices inherently use less power, making them suitable candidates for OTA charging.



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