5G Energy Harvesting for Fleet Tracking Devices

New research develops antenna systems to harvest 5G energy to power remote sensors, Internet of Things devices and even Fleet Tracking Devices.

Powering IoT devices, Remote Sensors and Fleet Tracking Devices with 5G Radio Waves

To dive deep into original research and new technology, we spoke with PhD student Aline Eid and Professor Manos Tentzeris at Georgia Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology). 

What are IoT Devices and Why Do They Matter to Fleet Managers?

IoT or Internet of Things devices are smart devices that have support for internet connectivity and are able to interact with other devices over the internet. You may already have IoT or smart devices in your home, such as a stove that tells your cell phone app if you left a burner turned on or left the oven door open. These devices also include smart refrigerators, smartwatches, smart fire alarms, smart door locks, smart bicycles, medical sensors or fitness trackers.

Fleet tracking can use IoT or connected devices using GPS, satellite, cellular, and other technologies installed into trucks, trailers and equipment. IoT devices can also include sensors that monitor truck or car tire pressure or the temperatures in a refrigerated trailer.

Most of these IoT sensors and devices require power that is supplied from a long-life battery. But if the devices are hard to reach, it may be difficult to change the battery. The battery is often part of smaller smart devices, so the entire device has to be replaced when the battery runs out of power.  New research suggests a way to power smart devices so that the batteries can be recharged using the power in 5G radio waves. Some small IoT devices use very little power.

5G radio waves have more power density than older cellular systems. That radio wave power can be converted back into DC voltage to recharge smart device batteries. 

There are two significant implications for the trucking industry that come from this research:

  1. Powering IoT devices with 5G
  2. Powering remote sensors to provide near real-time data to GPS tracking systems

How Does 5G Work to Power IoT & Fleet Tracking Devices?

This new research uses arrays of several small antennas that can collect 5G radio waves from any direction. Next voltage rectifiers turn the 5G radio wave energy into DC electricity that the batteries can use or even power the device directly.

We asked Professor Manos Tentzeris about his work and how 5G can be used to power IoT (internet of things) devices. Essentially, specialized antennas in proximity to 5G base stations are capable of harvesting energy and powering certain types of devices:

“This system we tested can power typical IoT devices with consumption of tens to hundreds of microwatts. Within a typical size of a 5G cell, something between double and triple-digit microwatts.

This could include essential devices, beacon devices, mountable devices or wearable devices,” says Manos.

Right now, the big limitation to the effectiveness and application of harvesting 5g energy is related to the density and frequency of these base stations. PhD student Aline Eid, explains that outside of a 180-meter range of the base station, the current technology can’t effectively harvest power:

“So our solution is that the cell size is within 180 meters. Now, the closer to the base station obviously the better. We will be receiving more power, which means you can multiply the amount of power you’re producing. Now in places where there isn’t coverage, then you will not be really receiving anything because we rely on the base station. So if a truck is traveling in a place where there aren’t any 5g base stations, then those sensors on the trucks, cannot be powered, which brings us to another scenario where you have batteries. In this case, you would need batteries as a complementary source of power or solar cells, for example, because as you’re traveling in areas during the day, you can be charging those sensors using sunlight.”

What Does This Mean for GPS Tracking Devices? 5G Autonomous Beacons & Smart Highways

Imagine a future where highway sensors are sending data to GPS tracking devices, emergency personnel, traffic monitors and the National Weather Service. This type of capability is just around the corner.

Professor Tentzeris articulates “that autonomous beacons in smart highways beacons could be utilized to either provide critical updates or tracking or localizing moving vehicles.”

He continues: 

“You could also power off some communication devices so if you want to have critical information transmitted to a fleet, about some accident, or about some traffic situation or road condition. You could power them up like this.”

For fleet managers, this is very good news. 

Additionally, having remote-powered sensors anchored in hard-to-reach places like bridges and telephone poles that are hard to reach naturally translates the benefits of 5G power. Eid says, 

“We can charge sensors that are very difficult to reach all the time to charge their batteries. So we are helping to eliminate batteries in places where you cannot really reach them. If you want to put millions of sensors on buildings, on roads, on poles, and on bridges, you don’t want to bring people to change batteries all the time. This is the perfect place to put sensors where they’re going to be in contact or facing base stations and be continuously charged and able to communicate very important sensing information.”

How Long Can 5G Power Last or How Much Power Can it Generate?

It depends on the demands put on the system. One of the key things Manos stresses is the concept of duty cycle or “up-time” for a given device or beacon:

“Duty cycle means the amount of time, the essential device has to operate. Okay, we need this class called Operation duty cycle to be 100%, but if you have the central operation only every 100 seconds. That’s 1%. So, this is a very important number as well for smart tracking applications, I want to stress that because I believe that’s very important for the capabilities and scope.”

Are you ready to learn more? Talk to a Fleet Advisor today.

When will we see large-scale rollouts of this kind of innovation?

According to Eid, this is heavily dependent on the 5g telecom providers. 

“It’s a very important point—we are talking to the main 5g providers in the US and even around the world, and they are very interested indeed. That’s why we are working on our system right now to test with them, so we have future tests scheduled with big companies. But what happens in a year or two, is still unclear.”

To read more, see their scientific report, 5G as a wireless power grid.

Get Ready for 5G & Sunsetting 3G

3G connectivity is slated to end in February 2022. If your fleet is running legacy hardware, now is the time to make sure you’re ready for this update. This will affect OBD II telematics hardware, ELD devices and asset trackers.  If you want to read more about 5G, check out our eBook: How to Keep Vehicles and Fleets Connected After the End of 3G.

If you’d like to learn more about how GPS Trackit can help to improve safety, increase productivity and reduce costs for your business, speak with one of our knowledgeable Fleet Advisors at 866-320-5810 or get a quick Custom Quote.

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