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Powercast & InPlay Team To Create Battery-free BLE Sensor Beacon


Powercast Corporation, a leader in radio-frequency (RF)-based over-the-air wireless power technology, and InPlay, inventor of the programming-free, ultra-low-cost and low-power Bluetooth sensor NanoBeacon system-on-chip (SoC) technology, have created a platform for designing battery-free, maintenance-free, long-range wireless IoT sensor systems that deploy easily for monitoring in the retail, medical, warehousing and industrial IoT markets.

Powercast and InPlay announced they planned to demonstrate the devices at the ‘Sensors Converge' conference in San Jose, California (USA). The companies said they believe Powercast's RF-to-DC power harvesting technology is a compelling new option to power InPlay's active Bluetooth sensor IN100, the first of InPlay's NanoBeacon SoC family. The IN100 can be attached to nearly anything for real-time location monitoring, and paired with sensors to monitor conditions such as light, humidity and temperature.

Previously documented to power sensors over 80 feet, Powercast's far-field wireless technology has now powered the NanoBeacon IN100 from 120 feet away from the commercially-available PowerSpot® transmitter, enabling a beacon signal every minute. NanoBeacon's low-power design, which features fast start-up and data transmission using only microwatts of power, supports Powercast in achieving this performance. As the NanoBeacon moves farther from Powercast's RF transmitter, beacon signals become less frequent, while moving it closer allows more frequency if the application requires it.

The new distance achievement is also due to Powercast's new reference design for its PCC110 Powerharvester® chip and companion PCC210 boost converter, which join forces to harvest RF out of the air with up to 75 percent efficiency. The company recently increased its R&D department to push the boundaries of RF power-over-distance technology and reduce costs so it can become ubiquitous. Contact Hank Gasbarro for reference designs: hgasbarro@powercastco.com.

"Powercast's and InPlay's technologies combine to make every microwatt of power count in efficient and green IoT networks powered over the air, now at unprecedented distances, without batteries," said Charles Goetz, CEO of Powercast. "Together we are advancing the IoT, creating the opportunity for new battery-free sensor types, low-power intelligent endpoints, and smart tracking tags used in retail, asset tracking and industrial sensing."

InPlay's NanoBeacon SoC family aims to make smart sensor systems using active RFID technology affordable and easy to deploy, via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). It's easily configured via an app, requires no software programming, transmits data up to 300 feet, and features software-defined radio (SDR) edge networking to connect tens of thousands of IoT devices.

"Maintaining billions of battery-powered IoT devices in the field is an expensive challenge, but with Powercast's technology, our customers can design battery-free wireless sensors to avoid downtime and maintenance issues," said Jason Wu, co-founder and CEO of InPlay. "Our technology is already easy and affordable to deploy vs. traditional RFID deployments which normally require technical experts. Now customers can also eliminate battery maintenance, and monitor more asset conditions when adding sensors to the system."

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