Podcasts > Ep. 099 - The battery free Internet of Things
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Ep. 099
The battery free Internet of Things
Srinivas Pattamatta, Vice President, Atmosic Technologies
Friday, August 13, 2021

In this episode, we discuss the current state of ultra-low power and batteryless wireless solutions for consumers and industry. We also explore the decision criteria for determining which solution is the right fit based on total cost of ownership, form factor, features and connectivity requirements. 

Our guest today is Srinivas Pattamatta, Vice President at Atmosic technologies. Atmosic is a fabless semiconductor company that designs ultra-low power wireless solutions to dramatically reduce device dependancy on batteries, aiming to deliver forever battery life in the battery free connected Internet of Things.

IoT ONE is an IoT focused research and advisory firm. We provide research to enable you to grow in the digital age. Our services include market research, competitor information, customer research, market entry, partner scouting, and innovation programs. For more information, please visit iotone.com

Transcript.

Erik: Welcome to the Industrial IoT Spotlight, your number one spot for insight from industrial IoT thought leaders who are transforming businesses today with your host, Erik Walenza.

Welcome back to the Industrial IoT Spotlight podcast. I'm your host, Erik Walenza, CEO of IoT ONE, the consultancy that specializes in supporting digital transformation of operations and businesses. Our guest today is Srinivas Pattamatta, Vice President at Atmosic Technologies. Atmosic is a fabulous semiconductor company that designs ultralow power wireless solutions to dramatically reduce device dependency on batteries, aiming at delivering a forever battery life and the battery free connected Internet of Things.

In this talk, we discussed the current state of ultralow power and battery lists wireless solutions for consumers and industry, and we also explored the decision criteria for determining which solution is the right fit based on total cost of ownership, form factor, features, and connectivity requirements.

If you find these conversations valuable, please leave us a comment and a five-star review. And if you'd like to share your company's story or recommend a speaker, please email us at team@IoTone.com. Finally, if you have an IoT research strategy or training initiative that you'd like to discuss, you can email me directly at erik.walenza@IoTone.com. Thank you. Srinivas, thank you for joining me today.

Srinivas: Thank you for having me. It's my pleasure.

Erik: So, this is a super interesting topic for me of low power battery list applications. But before we get into the company and the technology, I'd love to learn a little bit more about where you're coming from and how you ended up here. So, you've worked with many of the big players in this space over the past 25 years or so. Can you just walk us through a few of the highlights of your career, when you first touched on this topic, and then also, why did you end up joining Atmosic, what was it about the company that convinced you to step away from some of the larger players and decide to join a startup?

Srinivas: Thanks, Erik. My name is Srinivas Pattamatta. I am the VP of Marketing and Business Development at Atmosic Technologies. Like you said, Erik, if you rewind the clock for about a couple of decades or so, I started my career in what I call wireline technologies. This was a company called Level One Communications that was bought by Intel. We were doing Ethernet and wireline technologies, but it's still in the communication domain.

Later on, I did a long stint at a company called VLSI Technology which was bought by Philips Semiconductors. In those days, it was still Philips Semiconductors, and that's where I moved from the wireline technologies into wireless, where I started focusing on Bluetooth communications. I'm probably getting myself, but in those days, we were doing Bluetooth 1.1 that is a version of the specification, selling into the candy bar feature phones, the thin long ones, had a very small screen or in some cases no screen at all.

And then moved on into WiFi and Bluetooth that Atheros Communications; they were the premier provider for WiFi. It was started by Teresa Meng from Stanford University. She's still teaching there. She's a very well-known professor.

And then of course, those of you who are following carefully know that Atheros was bought by Qualcomm, so I did a long stint there. And then I did a brief stint at Synaptics, the touch company. And during that timeframe, I was approached by Atmosic Technologies CEO, David Su. David and I worked together in Atheros for maybe about 15 years or so. He was VP of engineering, I was on the marketing side. Together, we actually worked together on multiple chips, and really had fun doing that.

Then David and couple of others were just founding this company called at Atmosic focused on low power and energy harvesting. And more importantly, it had the same blessings of few of the folks that had founded Atheros or were instrumental in Atheros. And so what made me joined, I said, look, I'd worked on communications for more than two decades, and low power was becoming more and more important. Of course, I couldn't resist working back with a big portion of Atheros team. And that's what made me join.

I joined at Atmosic Technologies more than four years ago just after it was founded. I was the first non-engineering employee, meaning whether charge sales, everything I was responsible for. And then we grew over time. When I joined, I think there were a handful of players. And now we are in probably hitting like 80 or something like that employees. And I joined because I love communications, I love wireless technologies. And low power is something that is what we believe for the next couple of decades is going to be very important. That's the history of where I come from. I've always been in semiconductor for the last two and a half decades or so. It's a challenge, but I enjoy.

Erik: Well, it's been a fascinating space to be in. No way to get boring when you're in that space in the past couple of decades. And it's a luxury really that you're working with a team of people that you know well, right?

Srinivas: Yes.

Erik: And a big advantage as a company, and just probably a nice thing to do personally. Before we get into the technology here, maybe you can just explain the value proposition. Why is batteryless technology an important addition to the portfolio on the market?

Srinivas: I think it's a fair question. So if you kind of step back, the mobile phone probably in the last 10 years has created opportunities beyond what I call hosted systems. Hosted systems are mobile phones access points, laptops, tablets, and all. So the next couple of decades’ growth is what they call in the edge of the cloud, or some people call it IoT, Internet of Things. End of the day, the two important features for devices on the edge of the cloud are the communication is wireless naturally, many of the things today are; and more importantly, they are what are called true wireless systems, meaning even the power supply there's no wired for the power supply. So obviously, there’re non-battery or some form of energy harvesting solutions.

So in those cases, battery life is fairly important, because aged devices, either they require frequent change of batteries or they’re at a location where changing batteries, even every six months is a big chore, especially in industrial systems. So in those cases, the purpose for it Atmosic in the tagline for at Atmosic is we want to redefine battery life, we want to change how battery life is viewed, for multiple reasons.

I think, the obvious business value proposition for your listeners is, yeah, you can reduce the cost for ownership over time, instead of replacing 10 batteries over 10 years. If you would replace only three batteries, it's not only the cost of the battery, but the replacement cost especially in industry and enterprise environments is pretty big.

On the consumer side, the value proposition is its ease of use. If you have remote controller or advanced remote control, you have to change batteries every three months. Just when you really need it is when the battery generally tends to run out. And so the ease of use is important for consumers. And there is an important benefit as well. If you're a company that is shipping consumer products or any products in the millions of them, and then each of them is using every two batteries every six months, it adds up very quickly. So, for the environmental impact is very important as well.

So, overall value proposition is cost of ownership, ease of use, and environmental impact that we could make on what I call IoT edge-connected devices. That's the value proposition of Atmosic.

Erik: There was an old McKinsey case study that I read in my MBA program. And there was basically somebody invented a light bulb and the light bulb can last for 50 years, and how do you sell this thing? And the answer was, you sell it to the users where the cost is not the technology, the cost is the human labor of replacing that light bulb. So find the situations where it's most challenging to replace that light bulb and then you can sell it for a good premium there because it's such a hassle to actually make that change.

And I suppose it's a little bit the same here. There's a set of use cases where the cost of actually going out and finding that sensor and replacing it is quite significant. It could be embedded in a machine. It could be out in a field somewhere. Are there are a handful of top use cases where you say today this is where the early adopter market is where there's so much pain and tracking down these sensors in maintaining them that people are willing to really pay a premium for a solution like this?

Srinivas: Absolutely. So there are a couple of areas that I will touch upon. First of all, once again, if you step back, there's a data point that we heard recently that the install base, it's not a yearly shipment, but the install base of wireless devices worldwide is approaching somewhere around 30 billion units. Now granted, all of them are not Bluetooth, all of them are not WiFi only, but there are many connectivity solutions in there.

And a big portion of them tend to run on batteries. There are two sub-value propositions we are bringing to the table. One is extreme low power wireless solution and then energy harvesting. If you combine these two together, it's a very, very powerful mechanism. Where does it help? Which applications we see as a low hanging fruit that we're seeing a lot of interest is I'll break it up into two buckets again.

Imagine consumer applications. In consumer applications, solutions like keyboards, remote controls, variables, and off-light, specific home automation devices like door locks, we are starting to see strong interest. Why? Just like how you said, if you have a remote control or a keyboard, better get a door lock, if the door lock is automated or it's connected to your phone and you can operate the door lock, imagine just when you're getting groceries and after six months if the battery runs out, it's a convenience issue.

On the industrial enterprise side, the fastest growth for Bluetooth 5.0, we can get into it later on what Bluetooth 5.0 entails, is in asset tracking, and beacons, sensing, and locationing solutions. Here, the end device is operated by an industrial customer for various purposes, like we talked about either to track an asset or for sensing a temperature or temperature sensing pressure or sensing light, or even for location purposes.

Imagine a large airport or a large stadium where your location beacons. In all these cases, it's not the cost of replacement of the battery, but having to send someone and replace the battery. You have to pay someone maybe depending on where you're located in the globe, maybe in the US like $20-30 to just replace a $1 battery, or even few cents battery.

One good example we heard recently was an average hospital in the US has about, probably 50,000 equipment that they like to track. Imagine if you had a small coin cell device that they're using to track all these equipment and if each of them run out of batteries every six months, then there's someone replacing 50,000 of these, I call it like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. You start with the first device, you replace, and by the time you finish the 50,000 device, you come back and replace the first one because it's six months over.

So, the total cost of ownership, it's not just the beacon device that you're putting on the equipment, but paying someone to replace that, that's called total cost of ownership over the life of the solution suddenly adds up. So where we are seeing traction is tracking and location on the enterprise side and some sensing devices as well. And on the consumer side, we're starting to see, as I said, remote controls, keyboard and variable solutions and home automation.

Erik: So, this is quite a range of different applications. So I imagine maybe you can tell me what's the product strategy? Are you selling sensors? Are you licensing your technology to different sensor manufacturers because I suppose you need quite a range of different solutions for these portfolio of use cases?

Srinivas: The product strategy is we are a semiconductor company or IC company as someone like to call. We are developing chips/semiconductor solutions. And what we are doing is to enable all these couple of handful of applications. We have created reference designs. And in each of these sub-segments, keyboard, remote control, asset tracking sensing, we have partnered with various module providers or solution providers, who will take our chips/semiconductor solution integrate it with a few other components and sell it into the market space with a large OEMs whether they are a consumer OEM or an industrial OEM.

So to enable this, we have created reference designs so that our partners can manufacture the complete solution much quicker and easier. And we can get into more details later on what the semiconductor solution that we are selling consists of, and what are the details in it. But at a high level, in terms of the value chain, the way we are enabling is creating reference designs. We don't sell the reference design, but we provide it to our partners for easy manufacturability and integration so that they can go and as part of and build to multiple OEMs in the market space.

Erik: Makes sense. Then, if I understand the key component that leads to a high level of this solution, so you have a very low power radio on Bluetooth 5.0, so that reduces the energy requirement, you have on demand wakeup so that the system doesn't need to be on and expanding energy all the time, it can turn on when data needs to be sent only.

But then you have this other component, which is the energy harvesting. If we can just dig in there a little bit, because each of these different use cases has a different environment. So where the energy is coming from could differ. Am I right? Or is there a standardized energy source? Or where's the energy coming from in these different use cases?

Srinivas: Now you cut on to our based technology pretty well. So there are three main components our complete single chip SOC consists of. The base component is a very, very low power standards compliant Bluetooth 5.0 technology. We started with that baseline because we wanted to keep the energy consumption of the connectivity portion extremely low.

The analogy I give people is, if you're able to run the marathon by just eating a small power bar or salad, rather than a full meal, you still are able to do the same work by consuming very less power consumption.

So number one, the patterns and the secret sauce that we have that we have developed over the last two decades, the team that we've assembled who have come from Qualcomm, Atheros, and many other large wireless companies, especially the core team has worked together for the last two decades in Qualcomm and Atheros, they've honed in the low power wireless techniques. There are multiple of those patterns that we have.

So base is low power wireless. But the most important point there is it standards compliant, it's a very standard solution so that it's able to talk with a large tens of billions of install base across the globe. In this particular case, we've chosen Bluetooth 5.0 for a couple of reasons. One is that it's the connectivity of choice for indoor IoT devices. And more importantly, Bluetooth 5.0 is pivoting compared to the early evolution of Bluetooth; it's ideally suited for mid-data throughput or low data throughput IoT devices that require the same range as WiFi. Bluetooth 5.0 can go up to 100 meters right now compared to the Bluetooth 10 years ago, which could only do 10 feet. That's number one technology.

So these are all cumulative three technologies. One is while Bluetooth 5.0, very low power. Number two, imagine there are applications where you don't need to be transmitting and receiving constantly. Imagine an asset tracking device. You just told me you're actually somewhere in Asia.

So imagine there are 100,000 assets that are loaded onto a ship, and they've sent from us to Asia, it takes about two months. Why should all these assets be beaconing their location? Instead, you could actually turn all of them off, that is what is called a wakeup receive. You can use any existing tablet, access point, or phone to put these devices to sleep using a predetermined magic packet. No other Bluetooth solution does that. And then what you do is when you land, you send a magic packet again and all these devices will wake up. That's the second order of magnitude of savings you get.

And the third order of magnitude is by doing energy harvesting. You can do three things either when you have energy you can use it to supply to distribution; or number two, you could actually store it on a battery or a super cap; or number three, in some cases, you don't even require a battery, you can just take the energy harvested and supply to the solution and then the solution can transmit and receive.

Now you asked me a question about hey, Srinivas, what about the types of energy harvesting? Do you have only one? No, not at all. Today, we support four kinds of energy harvesting. We support RF energy harvesting. We support photovoltaic or light. We support mechanical. And we support thermal. As you can see, these are four different types of varied energy harvestings. Depending on the solution, depending on the environment, you could pick one or two of them. Let me give you an example.

Imagine a wireless keyboard. In fact, there are wireless keyboards that exist today which have photovoltaics, i.e. solar cell on top of them, you could use solar. In our case, you could also use RF. Where is the RF energy coming from? When do you use wireless keyboard? You use it when you're typing in front of your laptop or your large PC solution all in one PC solution like an iMac or something like that. The WiFi coming from these devices can be used to power the keyboard. Or maybe you can even put a dongle where you can transmit 900 megahertz or some other wireless RF source. In terms of photovoltaic, well photovoltaic, you could use the light inherently inside a room.

So the answer to your question, if it is RF, we do have an RF source reference design we could provide. We took an off the shelf components. You can put it in a dongle and use it. Or you could use an inherently existing wireless solution as an RF source. The examples are you could use the phone to power the door lock. When you bring the phone closer to the door lock, the wireless inside the phone could act as RF source. Or, as we talked about earlier, we could use the laptop or all in one wireless solution. Or in some cases, you could actually install your own wireless source, either inside an access point or elsewhere to provide RF energy.

The chip SOC solution has couple of interesting techniques inside it. Number one, we already talked that it consumes 5-10 times lower than any Bluetooth solution in the market space, that itself enables even modest energy harvested allowing the chip to transmit. Number two, we have advanced power management unit that can take in multiple inputs. It can take multiple energy harvesting solutions: RF, photovoltaic, or other kinds of harvesting, and it can modulate between them. It can pick and choose between a battery, between an RF, or a between a photovoltaic and say, hey, this seems to be the best energy source so far today.

So this is the system intelligence we have buried into this chip that will enable the end consumer or the end OEM or the end industrial customer to design the solution much easily. Put the chip, add few components, and then you have the complete solution.

Erik: So let me just ask a couple questions to clarify how this would work, maybe two questions here. One is how much energy is sufficient? So let's go back to this example of the door lock. So you mentioned that the RF coming off of a mobile phone might maybe sufficient to power the door lock. Is it necessary then when you open the door to have that? Is there a battery that is basically being recharged passively throughout the day whenever there is an RF source nearby so that when you open the door it's available? Or do you need that RF source to be active at the point when you want to use the device so that it has an active energy stream? How do you make sure that there's the right amount of energy when you need it, because I imagine some of these energy sources will be transient?

Srinivas: Yeah, of course. Whether it's door lock, or keyboard or remote control or anything, the way to think about the issue is bucketed into two buckets. One is solutions that can run without batteries and solutions that run the battery is for the life of the solution. In the consumer examples, most of the OEMs are launching with a battery. And if you buy a remote control or keyboard, the OEM is happy to ship batteries along with it. That's not the problem at all. The problem is they want to ensure that the batteries last long.

In our example, just take a keyboard because it's much easier for people to imagine. If you take the keyboard, you could do one or two of the things. First of all, you can include the battery with it, and second of all, you can put either photovoltaic strip, a couple of small cells on top of the keyboard, and/or you could use both. You could use the RF energy coming from the laptop. In both cases, you could have a rechargeable battery in it. Or you can put a super cap next to the regular battery, WIAAA battery, and charge it on that. So when energy is available, you could dump it inside the rechargeable battery or the super cap and use it. Or when it is not available in those corner cases, you could use a WIAAA battery.

Just to give you an example, using our low powered Bluetooth and energy harvesting solution, an every user who types few hours a day, and if it's in a regular environment of a regular room, which is at least about 300 to 400 lux of light available, the battery can last may be able to seven years or so. That is kind of life of the solution.

Usually, Erik, you or your listeners probably replace their wireless keyboard every 5-6 years, or maybe every 5-7 years. So for the life of the solution, you don't need to replace the battery in that particular case. So, to answer your question, in all of these cases, there is an energy source either transiently present. In the case of door lock, it's present occasionally when the phone comes close by. In other cases, it has a battery in it.

But if you go for an advanced implementation, imagine a hotel door lock because generally, you don't physically move the door to somewhere else like a wireless keyboard, the door is stationary, in those cases, you can imagine hotel installations where there’s an RF source sitting on top of the frame of the door for every door. I mean, hotels don't mind installing them because today they pay a lot of money to replace the batteries every six months. Because all the door locks in hotels nowadays run out of batteries basically. You cannot hardwire them because when you open and close the door, the wire gets shaped.

To answer your question, you can either use an intermittent RF energy source, i.e. a phone when you bring it close, or you could have a permanently installed RF energy source on top of the doorframe that supplies RF energy power on a regular basis.

Erik: So it's kind of virtual wiring. And you can basically have the effect of a stable wire of energy, but it's no physical interface?

Srinivas: That's correct. When you use photovoltaic, you can definitely use ambient photovoltaics. Later in the call, we can talk about how we are working with couple of customers on using ambient photo energy or light source inside your room for remote controls and keyboards that we are working today.

Erik: Let's say, we've touched on a couple of use cases already, what would be the upper threshold for the amount of data that could be transferred? So what’s the upper threshold for the type of use case that could be feasible with this based on? And I guess it depends, because you could have maybe a very powerful RF feed that's actually streaming a lot of data, but maybe there's some edge cases like that. But in practical terms, how much data is kind of the maximum that is typically going to be transmitted in this type of solution?

Srinivas: In the solution that we're selling today, all of our solutions are Bluetooth 5.0. So the limitation is based on Bluetooth 5.0 data throughput. The maximum you can do is in single megabit range basically. And if you do have a photovoltaic source, then you do can transmit in the hundreds of kilobytes to megabytes in terms of the data that you could transmit.

In terms of photovoltaic energy sources, probably the most stable one. As you even, don't turn off and turn on the light every microsecond, which is a kind of a crazy case. But in a standard room that we are all living together, you could probably do hundreds of kilobytes up to a megabyte of data throughput. If you're getting into the tens of megabytes, I think then today's energy sources cannot support that.

Because you have to break the problem into two, one is energy consumption, and how much can you harvest? Energy harvesting is relatively only a few years old. We believe it's got long legs for the next two to three decades basically. So there will be lots of improvements that will be done not only by Atmosic, by many players in the market space over the next 10-20 years. And we believe there's a lot of future for it. And when that kind of goes, the efficiency of energy harvesting solution becomes couple of orders of magnitude, that's when probably you can get into the tens of megabytes. Until then you're into the hundreds of kilobytes to megabytes of data.

In synchronous cases, you could accumulate the data, meaning if you don't need to transmit in real time, you could accumulate as much data as you want in an external memory source and transfer as in when needed. So then your average throughput over time could be pretty high as well.

Erik: So just to give a little bit of a benchmark here, if we go back to your wireless keyboard example, how many kilobytes, what would be the data rate that would be required for that product?

Srinivas: Unless you're typing fast, and unless you have a special keyboard which is sending additional stuff, you're probably in the hundreds of kilobytes of data, I would say, or even less than that in some cases. If any of your listeners going to YouTube and just Google Atmosic keyboard, you will see a keyboard our CEOs typing on, and it's kind of getting RF energy source from a dongle which has 900 megahertz RF source and doesn't have any batteries. And he's typing normally. He's not the fastest typist in the world, but he's typing like regularly. And that is more than sufficient to run without batteries actually. That kind of tells you how quickly you can harvest energy and transmit back quickly.

Erik: You mentioned this is a fairly new technology, and you have a couple of different things that are being improved by all of the companies in the ecosystem here. So you have on the one side, the RF improvements related to Bluetooth, and there'll be continuing upgrades there, and then you have the energy harvesting. What do you see as the big technical levers for improving this field of batteryless energy? So where are the areas where you say, okay, we can't just get a 10% improvement, we could potentially get a 10x improvement over some period of time? And are there particular domains that are exciting for you when you look out into the next 5 years or 10 years of the technology roadmap?

Srinivas: Yeah, absolutely. First of all, we started with improvements in wireless power consumption. I want to remind your listeners on that. The wireless active power consumption of our solution is 5-8 times lower or 5-10 times lower, depending on which competing solution you're talking about, apples to apples comparison. So I do believe we have already introduced into a market something that is game changing in terms of the wireless power consumption. In this particular case, we've chosen Bluetooth 5.0.

So you could imagine applying similar low power techniques for other wireless connectivity in the future by Atmosic. You can name many of the other wireless technologies that are popular or upcoming that Atmosic could work on. So I think that's one layer.

Imagine two pillars that we will continue to work on. So that that's one layer of innovation that we will continue. We will take what we have developed on Bluetooth 5.0, similar techniques apply to other wireless technologies. Imagine now you're only doing what we call data solutions only, we could apply that to audio and video in the next 10-20 years. That's a long term vision I'm painting.  

Now, on the energy harvesting side, there's a whole lot of things we could work on without even touching the ecosystem. I’ll talk about the ecosystem in a minute. But we can continue to do improvements in terms of how much energy is harvested, how the efficiency of energy is harvested. I just gave you an example of our existing solution where we have integrated advanced power management unit, where you don't waste energy. If you had two types of energy coming in, most Bluetooth solutions cannot take both of them. So instead of wasting that, we're able to pick both those solutions and kind of integrate that and use it for transmitting data. So that's one level.

And I would say, the whole energy harvesting and improvements in the efficiency of energy harvesting, in the next five years, not only Atmosic, but other energy harvesting companies as well could spend quite a bit of time and resources, improving an order of magnitude in terms of the efficiency of the energy harvesting.

And then finally, the ecosystem players, those who manufacture photovoltaic cells, those who manufacture thermal generators, those who manufacture mechanical generators that complement our solutions, that continues to happen as we speak. We are talking to many partners like that. And I believe in photovoltaics, a lot of advancements have been done, and continues to happen. The next one probably is RF and thermal along with mechanical that you will see in the next 5-10 years.

Erik: So, some levers that will continue to be worked on here. The cost of the solution is not something we've really touched. Actually, before we go there, I wanted to follow up on this point around alternatives for different connectivity solutions. There's this whole array of use cases around low power wide area. So if you think about agriculture, areas where you might have sensors out in the field somewhere and that is a very significant pain point, even identifying where the sensors are, let alone, having somebody go in and change the batteries. But there, you're really looking at situations where it has to be completely passive, so you're not going to have any local RF energy source. And then you have this challenge of wide area networks here moving data farther.

Is that something that you've looked significantly into? And I guess Bluetooth is not going to be the solution there. But what's your view on that particular category of use cases where you're moving things, maybe kilometer, kind of in that range?

Srinivas: So we haven't looked into the wide area network, suddenly, the technology that we're developing can be applied there. Currently, we are just focused on Bluetooth. But you could imagine the low power wireless techniques could go beyond that. Our hands are full, just Bluetooth 5.0 endpoints today are about a billion units going into over 2.0-2.5 billion units in the next couple of years or so. That's a pretty large market for startup like us. So we are happy to focus on Bluetooth for now. But we can imagine in the future we could use this technology into many other areas as well.

Erik: The typical bomb cost, I know this is going to be advanced it's going to be to some extent, it depends. And it's some they’re also out of your control, so whether manufacturers are building the solutions. But are we looking at order of magnitude $1, $10, $30, what would be a typical bomb cost per solution?

Srinivas: Imagine Atmosic was not in the play, what are the existing bomb costs? Generally speaking, if you took a regular keyboard, and you said you wanted to add Bluetooth module to it, it's a few dollars range, the Bluetooth module coming from a competing solution. Now you're adding, I would say probably less than $1 bomb of having a photovoltaic cell and also is from few components to it.

So the additional bomb costs for adding energy harvesting is not significant. And from it Atmosic Bluetooth solution point of view, we're very compatible in terms of the cheap ASP, SOC ASP compared to what competing Bluetooth solutions are because we are manufacturing it in every standard seamless process.

Erik: Okay, great. So yeah, pretty minimal impact at the actual cost of the final product here. What have we not touched on yet that's important? What questions should I have been asking here?

Srinivas: I think you kind of touched upon, in the beginning of the call, he said, hey, what are the some of the things that you worked on, where are you seeing? When we started this venture a few years back, I think we just started scratching the surface. In the last one year, we've seen a lot of interest in the OEM namespace of consumers. And namely, because consumers are demanding, for two reasons, that they want to extend the battery life, one for the consumers are becoming more and more conscious; and secondly, it's the ease of use that we talked about.

Sometimes one of the important point I would like to stress to the listener is, don't think of it only from a cost perspective. Imagine it from a feature perspective. What do I mean by that? Let's take remote controls, for example. All of us know in the last couple of years, remote controls, you could have thought if you asked me four or five years ago, yeah, remote controls for TVs is great.

But in the last 3-4 years, remote controls have pivoted. They have wise processing built into them, you could whether it's many of the wise engines that are a popular ones, whether it's Alexa, Siri, or Hey, Google, or many others, all those are being added today. What does it mean? That means you're going to actually consume more and more power.

So, for the same battery life as a regular remote as before, by going with an Atmosic solution, a low power wireless solution with energy harvesting, now you could add these additional features, and still keep the same battery life. That's one of the things we provide. Not only just extending the battery life, but you could actually take the energy that we provide, keep the same battery life as before, but now you add more features. It's kind of the quintessential more for the same price deal.

The other way of looking at it is, you could also go ahead and design better form factor solutions. Previously, you can just put a coin cell and just go with a very thin remote control. So the possibilities of energy access, as I like to call it are, you can go in many vectors. You can go into vector of cost. You can go a vector of life of the solution. You can go into a vector of form factor or feature addition. That's an important point that we all have to kind of keep in mind. As more and more features are being added to everything around us, you could go in many ways by using a solution that Atmosic is providing. That's probably what I would add in there.

Erik: No, that's a great perspective that in the end of the day, subtracting $1 or $2 from the bomb is not going to make or break a product, but being able to differentiate on form factor and on features is what that will kind of dictate the success of these products. I don't know when the last time is that I owned a TV, but it's probably been 10 years or something. So this whole example that you were given about the new remote control, I just had no concept of…

Srinivas: Just a one minute on that, not just TVs alone, but across all kinds of remotes, five place remotes, all with the remotes, worldwide, ABA research says it's a billion units every year; all of that, about 400 million are Bluetooth remotes. And out of that about 200-250 million are TV Bluetooth remotes. So it's a pretty large market space. And that market space is pivoting. People are adding voice processing, voice front ends to everything possible, including remotes.

Erik: Yeah, interesting perspective. And this wireless concept as well, so maybe this is something looking a little bit forward into the future. But would you imagine if we look forward 10 years or some more considerable amount of time, being able to eliminate more wire, are we looking forward towards a time when a light for example, I mean, maybe that's an extreme example? But we have all of these wires in the house that are connecting different types of devices. And people spend a lot of money on designs that somehow minimize this. And they spend a lot of time on either by themselves or they hire people to kind of figure out clever ways to hide the wires and embed them in walls and floors and so forth.

But if you look forward, do you imagine that it will be possible in a 10 year time frame to start powering some of these really higher consumption devices with batteryless solutions? Or if we’re looking at a light, for example, is the energy consumption simply too high to be really feasible?

Srinivas: No. I think your trend is the correct trend. Imagine a decade or even two decades from now, which is all of us have more and more wireless solutions in the house. Not only just hosting systems, you have endpoints, you have temperature sensors. Imagine that 10 years from now. And why just pick only one energy source? Think of mechanical, RF, light, thermal.

And based on the end device, you could use one or two of those energy sources to power them, maybe not every minute of it, overtime in 24 hours: you don't need to be powering all of these things and blasting energy, every second of it. You could do it in the night. Imagine the whole building is energy supply, energy sources could be controlled. And those can power all these endpoints over time in the night, maybe or during quiet periods, and then just extend the battery life or maybe not required batteries.

So, if not all of the solutions in the house at least a big portion of the solution that run on AA and AAA. Imagine all the toys that are running around in the house, imagine all the smoke detector alarms that are in the house, all these could be powered using energy harvesting solution, and on top of that connected wirelessly to transmit data and be connected.

So yes, our long term vision is consumer or industrial or enterprise buildings a decade from now, if not all the solutions, at least a good portion of the sensors in the whole utilizing energy harvesting, but still connected wirelessly to transmit data. And that's the longer term vision for somewhere like Atmosic.

Erik: Okay, great. Super interesting space that you're in and that's a great vision. I think many, many people would be happy to see that world come to fruition. So thank you, Srinivas, for taking the time to explain your work with us and introduce the company and wish you all the success in the world.

Srinivas: Thank you so much, and it's my pleasure talking to you.

Erik: Thanks for tuning into another edition of the IoT Spotlight podcast. If you find these conversations valuable, please leave us a comment and a five-star review. And if you'd like to share your company's story or recommend a speaker, please email us at team@IoTone.com. Finally, if you have an IoT research, strategy, or training initiative that you would like to discuss, you can email me directly at erik.walenza@IoTone.com. Thank you.

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