Low Cost Battery-Less Wake Up Timer Paves Way for Miniaturization of IoT Devices

Researchers from the Green IC research group at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have invented a low-cost battery-less wake-up timer that significantly reduces power consumption of silicon chips for Internet of Things (IoT) sensor nodes.

“We have developed a novel wake-up timer that operates in the picoWatt range, and cuts power consumption of rarely-active IoT sensor nodes by 1,000 times. As an element of uniqueness, our wake-up timer does not need any additional circuitry, as opposed to conventional technologies, which require peripheral circuits consuming at least 1,000 times more power (e.g., voltage regulators). This is a major step towards accelerating the development of IoT infrastructure, and paves the way for the aggressive miniaturization of IoT devices for long-lasting operations,” said team leader and associate professor Massimo Alioto from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the NUS Faculty of Engineering.

IoT sensor nodes are kept in the sleep mode most of the time in order to keep power consumption low, and wake-up timers are used to trigger the sensors to carry out a task. As they are turned on most of the time, wake-up timers set the minimum power consumption of IoT sensor nodes. They also play a fundamental role in reducing the average power consumption of systems-on-chip.

“Overall, this breakthrough is achieved through system-level simplicity via circuit innovation. We have demonstrated silicon chips with substantially lower power that will define the profile of next-generation IoT nodes. This will contribute towards realizing the ultimate vision of inexpensive, millimeter-scale and eventually, battery-less sensor nodes,” added research team member Dr. Orazio Aiello, a visiting research fellow at NUS.