PARC, the research company owned by Xerox, has pioneered a lot of technologies for the personal computer and mobile revolutions. And now it’s moving on to the Internet of Things.
Today, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company is announcing it has secured money from the U.S. Department of Energy to create sticky sensors that can be used to monitor the Internet of Things. You just peel the labels off these sensors and stick them in places where they can wirelessly monitor other devices by radio frequency power.
The Internet of Things, or making everyday objects smart and connected, is a huge trend that is remaking many industries. Business Insider Intelligence estimates IoT will be a $6 trillion market by 2021. Enterprises are deploying sensors to measure the heating and cooling conditions in buildings, and then they’re automatically adjusting the settings to maximize comfort and minimize costs. With the sticky sensors, you could monitor the energy efficiency in a room by connecting sensors via RF signals.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is investing $19 million in the program to improve they efficiency of our nation’s homes, offices, schools, hospitals, restaurants, and stores.
“If you can measure the temperature in different parts of a building, you can operate the energy system more efficiently,” said David Schwartz, project lead and manager of Energy Devices and Systems at PARC, in an interview with VentureBeat. “But deploying sensors can be expensive. This idea lets you facilitate the deployment of the sensors, without the cost. You just peel and stick.”
PARC has a long history developing hybrid electronics with varying functionality and flexible form factors. One of the challenges in distributed sensing is power. PARC’s low-cost sensors are powered by RF energy instead of batteries, which have limited life or light and can be ineffective inside of buildings. The innovative peel-and-stick deployment provides simple and affordable installation advantages. Sensors can be applied throughout the facility and easily replaced or moved when necessary, allowing for a deeper and more accurate understanding of building environments than is currently available.
The sensors are also auto-locating, facilitating commissioning and enabling additional capabilities, such as automatic wall mapping. The Internet of Things requires myriad solutions to help us sense and interpret the world. Printing is a promising approach to mass-produced and customized sensor systems. The low cost, flexible form factor, and simple installation are ideal for a variety of applications, such as building efficiency, air quality, smart cities, industrial and residential safety, and wearables.
“We’re looking forward to improving the energy landscape, and we are working with manufacturing partners to fabricate these sensors,” Schwartz said.
The DOE is funding a total of 18 building-related projects, encompassing sensors and controls, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and related technologies, windows, building envelopes (the physical elements, such as doors and walls, separating a building’s interior from its exterior), and energy modeling. The RFID projects fall within the sensors and controls category.
Last year, PARC announced its methane detection sensors, based on printed sensor arrays fabricated on polymer substrates. PARC is developing very low-cost printed sensor arrays to quantify and locate methane leaks, using a variety of modified carbon nanotube (CNT) materials.