Seattle-based tech startup Xnor has unveiled a new solar-powered connected camera that could drive connection growth for telecommunications network operators, reports The Verge.
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These sorts of devices could enable companies to expand the use of cameras across their operations and gain a simple, valuable way to gather data, which in turn highlights an opportunity to offer analytics and management tools for this range of connected monitoring solutions.
Xnor has developed a prototype that has onboard AI and includes a camera that is wholly powered by solar power. That means the unit doesn’t need batteries or power connections.
Because the device funnels most of its energy to the built-in image-processing chip and AI algorithms that parse visual data generated by the camera — and because solar cells generate a limited amount of power — the camera’s resolution is very low.
At just 320 x 320 pixels, its resolution is roughly equivalent to that of a decade-old smartphone. The device includes connectivity as well, with the capability to connect to Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) networks as well as LoRa networks, both of which require little energy to transmit data.
Low-powered cameras and sensors from startups such as Xnor and other batteryless device startups like PsiKick could expand the opportunity for companies to employ remote monitoring. This is already one of the top use cases for IoT devices — 62% of respondents at companies that employ IoT devices reported using them for remote monitoring, according to Business Insider’s 2018 Global IoT Executive Survey.
The extent to which moving to solar or other batteryless options will be beneficial, though, is unclear. Small sensors that connect to NB-IoT networks can last for up to 10 years on batteries already, so gains could be marginal.
One way that companies can use these is to monitor legacy analog gauges in industrial facilities. Providers like AT&T already do this with battery-powered cameras, as the company’s president of IoT solutions Chris Penrose told Business Insider Intelligence — see our 5G and the IoT report for more there. Similarly, smart utilities solutions could employ this type of batteryless connected camera to create makeshift smart meters, gaining the benefits of a smart meter without needing to buy entirely new hardware.
Telecoms are rolling out networks such as NB-IoT and LTE-M, and the proliferation of low-powered or batteryless sensors like Xnor’s new device will help them in two ways. Such devices will boost connections while also creating the opportunity for service revenue by way of pairing connectivity with monitoring and analytics services to make deploying such sensors worthwhile.
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