Adopting a low-power mindset is crucial when developing IoT devices. Over the years, we have dedicated ourselves to supporting and learning from developers and teams in ingraining this mindset in their everyday tasks.
What is a ‘Low-Power Mindset’
It’s an understanding that creating energy-efficient devices can be complex and time-consuming, but it’s also extremely rewarding and, in many cases, critical for a successful IoT business. It involves continuously measuring and optimizing energy consumption throughout the development and maintenance of an IoT project.
Power consumption measurements and battery life estimations are usually conducted sparingly during the development phase, often leading to expensive and time-consuming troubleshooting activities in later stages. Understandably, both you and your customer desire devices with a long lifespan, and ideally, achieving this should not require a lengthy or costly development process.
“A low-power mindset is an understanding that creating energy-efficient devices can be complex and time-consuming, but it’s also extremely rewarding and, in many cases, critical for successful IoT business.”
How To Cultivate a Low-Power Mindset
If you’re struggling to find the perfect design for extended battery life, it’s likely due to its complexity. It’s not sufficient to merely use ultra-low power chipsets and sensors. You need to comprehend your user scenarios, develop smart software to accommodate them, and ensure compatibility between the hardware and battery you’ve chosen. All of this needs to be understood in the context of various network protocols, diverse environments, and user interactions.
Implementing a low-power mindset starts with a few important activities in each of the following project phases: Prototyping, Development, Production, and Maintenance.
- Prototyping: Start with documented use cases, energy efficiency requirements, and a chosen form factor. Pick a preliminary battery based on these factors. Measure the performance of technology options that you are evaluating for different use scenarios. Start estimating battery life based on measured power duty cycle profiles to understand their impact on it.
- Development: The iterative development process should include power measurements at each iteration of hardware, firmware, and software. Make energy consumption tests automated and a part of your continuous integration setup. Pre-test on every developer’s desktop before committing to a new firmware or software release. Start profiling and emulating the batteries (from different brands and batches) for your specific power profiles. The usable capacity for your use cases will differ from what you see in the battery data sheet, in some cases more than 50 percent.
- Production: Carry the automated testing from the development phase into the production phase. Having a unified methodology for power testing applied across suppliers and manufacturers can reduce error risk in testing.
- Maintenance: Once your product hits the market, it’s important to ensure that any software updates do not damage the installed base of devices. The solution is integrating power measurements into the software release quality assurance and adding it to the continuous integration setup you already have in place.
Having the correct tools is crucial to prevent these activities from becoming overly complex and costly. Power and battery measurements can be seamlessly integrated into your existing testing processes, making it vital to select solutions that can be easily incorporated into your team’s daily development tasks. But most importantly, adopt the low-power mindset by starting to measure today!