New Possibilities using Bendable and Stretchable Sensors with No Battery Replacement Needed!

Miniature sensors network a wide variety of different things together

At this time of the year, many people visit tourist spots and resorts, or travel to enjoy sports events and concerts. Until recently, as soon as we arrived at the nearest station or airport to our destination, we usually checked an information board or asked people for directions to the event's venue. Although these days smartphones can by-and-large show you a route to your destination, however the provision of other services associated with this feature is currently not widespread.

Small radio transmitter, or sensors, can help to realize such services. For example, a sensor set up at a store in a shopping mall can broadcast advertising of sales and products to the smartphones of people passing the store.
Sensors have been attracting attention as technology that can support IoT (Internet of Things), in which things are given this kind of communication functionality to be able to connect to the Internet.

Conventionally, sensors need power-supply components such as power-management ICs and rechargeable batteries, as control circuits to ensure sufficient power on activation. However, such sensors pose the issue of high deployment and operational costs when one takes into account the time and effort required to supply power and replace batteries. Also, there were limits to how thin and light such power-supply components can be as well as with regard to the locations in which they can be installed, which raises further issues.

Compact sensors that don’t need battery replacement and have stretchable material that allows them to be installed anywhere

To address these issues, Fujitsu has developed sensors that do not require battery replacement and can bend and stretch into different shapes. Wireless-communications modules require a relatively large amount of power right before they begin communications. This technology developed by Fujitsu temporarily deactivates power monitoring after recognizing that the required amount of energy has been built up. This reduces the power consumed just before communications start.

How power-control operation works

The technology activates a wireless-communications module using a small storage element only one-ninth the size of those used with previous technologies, and allows the power to be supplied using a solar cell.
Mounting this technology onto a thin, elastic silicone substrate (*1) results in a package that is a mere 2.5 millimeters thick and weighs only 3 grams. This sheet can be bent and stretched providing greater freedom of installation, so it can be attached to a ceiling, in spaces between light fittings, or on the surface of an LED light, and can even be attached to clothing or to the wrist, which are locations where it is difficult to place conventional sensors.

(*1) Developed by Fujitsu Advanced Technologies Limited

The newly developed beacon

Using sensors to improve various services

By using these sensors that we have developed, it is no longer necessary to replace batteries every six months or every year. This saves the time and effort required for such replacements, and makes the deployment of sensors easier, enabling them to be used in a greater range of scenarios.
For example, by locating the current positions of smartphone-carrying visitors with sensors installed at sports stadiums, stations, or airports, applications such as leading visitors to their seats in the sites or guiding people within the facilities become possible. It is also possible to change staff positions and personnel allocation in real-time by understanding the routes that people are taking within the facilities.

Allocating sensors inside the building at fixed points allows a comprehensive understanding of where smartphone users are inside the building. This enables the allocation of security staff to be ascertained and the quick giving of reassignment instructions.
Furthermore, sensors can be installed in each room in a hospital to ascertain as needed from the nurses' station where various medical equipment is. This can contribute to the speeding-up of medical activities through the rapid preparation of medical equipment in cases such as emergency operations or treatment.

Fujitsu is currently conducting field testing to establish the reliability of these sensors and their capabilities for continuous operation, and is working toward practical implementation in fiscal 2016. These sensors will then have further use with the objective of expanding the opportunities for using the IoT to connect together information, people and objects.