Innovations in Energy Harvesting Technologies
Ubiquitous Sensor Presence enabled by Energy Harvesting
Nine Pronged Technology Evaluation
Energy harvesting is not a new concept. Most of the energy harvesting technologies harness solar, wind, water, and thermal
energy to generate electricity in large scale. The energy captured from these ambient sources can also enable low-power
consuming devices to recharge or even eliminate the use of batteries to power up the applications. Energy harvesting is stated
to be a key enabling technology for wireless sensor networks (WSNs) and the Internet of things (IoT). This research service
analyses the innovations in energy harvesting technology and also find the opportunities in diverse markets.
The research service offers insights primarily on the nine dimensions listed below:
Year of impact
Breadth of industries
Impact on megatrend
Potential points of convergence
Size of innovation ecosystem
Year of Impact
Widescale adoption of energy harvesting
technology would take some time as the battery
market is quite established and it is difficult to
change the end user mind-set.
There are various industries, where energy
harvesting is making inroads; and for some of
them the technology has already in use. For
example, the building and home automation
industry has adopted this technology.
North America and Europe are expected to be
comparatively fast adopters and major markets for
energy harvesting technologies.
APAC region would experience relatively slow
IP activity has increased since 2010 and has been
considerably high in the last 4 years.
Major focus is on photovoltaic technology as it promises
to have the widest application coverage.
Funding has been focussed on specific applications in
the past few years.
The EU 7th Framework Programme has been funding a
lot of research and commercialisation activities with
both industry and academic participants.
Key Findings (continued)
Breadth of Industries
Impact on Megatrend
The primary benefit of energy harvesting technologies
is elimination of batteries. Thus, energy harvesting
technologies are actual enablers of the wireless sensor
network and this capability is allowing energy
harvesting to find applications in building and home
automation, industrial, automotive, healthcare, military
& defense, consumer electronics and environmental
Size of Innovation
Convergence with ICT and wireless sensors holds
maximum potential in the near- to mid-term. It will
enable a host of IoT applications and building
energy management solutions.
Energy harvesting is perceived to have a strong
impact on several mega trends as identified by Frost
& Sullivan. Key mega trends are connectivity and
convergence, health, wellness and well-being,
"smart" is the new green and future infrastructure
A number of EH technologies are being researched
by leading universities across the world and
companies are also coming up with new products to
tap the energy harvesting market. Regulatory &
standardization bodies and alliances are accelerating
the energy harvesting adoption process.
Energy harvesting has high potential in various markets as it is a key enabling
technology for low-power, maintenance-free electronic devices
Key markets for energy harvesting include automotive, utility, industrial, military and
aerospace, and building automation, and so on.
Key Energy Harvesting Technologies–Photovoltaic
Solar or Photovoltaic Energy: Solar power has been used for large scale applications for many years. Low-power applications
can also benefit from solar power through the use of photovoltaic cells. The photovoltaic cells are usually made of siliconbased material, and these systems are best for use in outdoor applications. Organic photovoltaic solar cells are also enabling
flexible solar cells.
Lack of Effectiveness
Effectiveness of photovoltaic EH diminishes indoors as well as during night.
The conversion efficiency of a solar cell is not high with most devices achieving
maximum efficiency of around 30%.
Efficiency of Conversion
Sensitivity to water and air
for Organic PVs
Flexible organic photovoltaics are prone to damage by air and moisture. Thus
robust encapsulation is required for these devices.
Impact across different industries
Factors Influencing Adoption
High Initial Cost
Limitations in Power
Lack of Awareness
Initial cost of energy harvesting
solution is quite high; and most
of the end users compare the
high price of EH solutions with
cheaper batteries. Though EH
solutions offer higher ROI in the
range of 5 to 8 years, it is often
difficult for the end users to
understand and calculate the
ROI of EH solution. Thus, the
high initial cost of energy
harvesting technology is one of
the biggest obstacles in the way
of energy harvesting technology
Currently, power density of
micro energy harvesting is not
very high. It can mostly power
very low-power consuming
devices. Moreover, energy
harvesting is generally used to
enhance battery life and not as
the sole power supplier. This
challenge is expected to have
a lesser impact in the longer
term as technological
advancements take place to
There is no one-size-fits-all
energy harvesting solution
available in the market; and
these solutions are tuned to the
requirement of the actual end
user application and energy
sources available. Few
companies such as EnOcean,
Lord/Microstrain are offering a
complete solution for a
particular industry, but for other
applications new products need
to be continually developed.
Collaboration between all the
component players in the value
chain will solve this challenge in
Existence of the well
established battery market
is hindering the growth of
technology. It is a lack of
vision from end customers
who fail to see the hidden
costs associated with battery
technology in terms of
attendant and battery
Growing awareness among
the end users, about the
capability of energy
harvesting technology would
solve this challenge.
Breadth of Industries
General and Niche Applications Benefited
Energy Harvesting–Versatile Applications
The primary benefits of energy harvesting technologies is elimination of batteries. Energy harvesting technologies are actual enablers
of the wireless sensor network where a number of sensor nodes need to be deployed that need to operate continuously. To power up
the wireless sensors, EH technologies can allow harvesting of technologies from different sources and remove the need for bulky
batteries or supplement battery power. It can in turn facilitate better design for many devices and easy implementation of various
Building and Home
Automation and process
2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Internet of Things
• For IoT applications, wireless sensors
need to operate and communicate
• IoT applications demand deployment of
millions of distributed devices, which
introduces the challenge of powering
up all these devices. Batteries are not
a feasible option for powering up the
devices over a long period of time.
alternative to batteries for powering up
the distributed devices.
• Convergence of energy harvesting,
wireless sensors and ICT could be best
leveraged by IoT to facilitate real-time
applications such as smart cities, M2M
(machine to machine) communication,
environmental monitoring, and remote
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