Pentagon’s near-zero power plan could change the game for wireless sensors

A problem with the Internet of Things, whether in a military or civilian environment, is that all of those Internet-connected devices require power. And if they’re not plugged in, that power comes from batteries that will run out pretty quickly, which means regularly replacing or recharging those batteries in a process that is time-consuming, costly and, in military situations, dangerous.

Pentagon researchers are looking to change that scenario with sensors that essentially hibernate, lying dormant but aware while using almost no power, until triggered by a specified event. If successful, the program could extend the lives of battery-powered sensors from months to years, not only improving sensing capabilities on the battlefield or other military environments, but making devices such as wireless bridge sensors or environmental monitors more feasible.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Near Zero Power RF and Sensor Operations, or N-ZERO, program wants to develop the underlying technologies for passive monitoring that could let batteries last up to a thousand times longer than they do now while reducing the size of those batteries by a factor of 20 or more.

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