A new Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) program, Near Zero Power RF and Sensor Operations (N-ZERO), aims to passively monitor the environment, activating only when detecting specific events. The idea is to detect and recognize specific “attention-worthy” events and reject other readings and signal interference, staying “asleep yet aware.”
“It is the waiting for a specific event or activity that constrains mission life and drains the battery energy of these essential electronics,” said Troy Olsson, DARPA program manager. “By cutting reliance on active power and enhancing battery life, N-ZERO aims to enable wireless, ubiquitous sensing that is energy efficient and safer for the warfighter. Our goal is to use the right signal itself to wake up the sensor, which would improve sensors’ effectiveness and warfighters’ situational awareness by drastically reducing false alarms.”
The goal is to use less than 10 nanowatts (nW) during the sensor’s asleep-yet-aware phase—an energy drawdown roughly equivalent to the self-discharge (battery discharge during storage) of a typical watch battery and at least 1,000 times lower than state-of-the-art sensors. N-ZERO seeks to extend unattended sensor lifetime from weeks to years, cut maintenance costs and reduce the need for redeployments.
N-ZERO taps into the growing research and development of the Internet of Things, the global network of wirelessly connected devices that is projected to reach 30 billion sensors by 2020.
“By advancing state-of-the-art sensing capabilities for national security through N-ZERO, DARPA could help make the Internet of Things more efficient and effective across countless scenarios and environments, thus transforming the way people live,” said Olsson.