Solar-powering the Internet of Things

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Science  08 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6295, pp. 124-125
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag0476

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The Internet connects billions of computational platforms of various sizes, from supercomputers to smart phones. However, the same types of data transmission can connect computational resources to much simpler sensors “at the edge of the net” that collect, analyze, and transmit data, as well as controllers that receive instructions. Devices deployed in the environment, homes and offices, and even our bodies would expand the number of connected devices to the trillions. This “Internet of Things” (IoT) underlies the vision of smart homes and buildings that could sense and transmit their status and respond appropriately (1), or track and report on the state of objects (vehicles, goods, or even animals) in the environment. However, the practical implementation of the IoT has been relatively slow, in part because all of these edge devices must draw electrical power from their local environment. We analyze the use of photovoltaics (PV) to power devices and help bring the IoT to fruition.