The future of LPD

Published 26 April 2007

Low-power devices (LPDs) are proliferating, and their growing ubiquity offers investors attractive opportunities

There is a growing market out there which attracts the attention of more investors, especially these days when worries about security combined with anxiety about energy supplies and a sense of gloom about climate change. We are talking about the end use markets for energy harvesting, micro battery, and power management ICs which are used in these technologies. As investors ponder the opportunities, the bodies in charge of developing protocols and standards are pushing forward, and we already have technologies such as ZigBee, Z-Wave, LonTalk, Insteon, and others which are used in these low-powered devices (LPDs).

Energy harvesting, micro batteries, and power management ICs are essential for the commercial rollout of next-generation low-power electronic devices and systems. LPDs are being deployed for wireless and wired systems such as mesh networks, sensor and control systems, micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), radio frequency identification (RFID) devices, and for the ever more ubiquitous sensor networks. We already see implmentations in building and industrial automation, medical facilities, homeland security, military, commercial, gaming, transportation and others.

It is interesting to note that the LPD wireless component market is still considered new by the predominantly wired industrial, commercial, and residential automation industries. We do see the proliferation of devices which “talk” to each other and perform intelligent functions without manual instructions, but most of these communications protocols are still based on wired standards and technologies. Irish research firm Research and Markets thus correctly notes that the opportunity for investors, then, lies in remote, wireless communications among these devices.

The second thing to note is that LPD wireless technologies are primarily used in stationary applications such as industrial process monitoring and control, building automation, security, fire safety, structural monitoring, and similar applications. The applications are stationary, but their power needs closely mirror the needs of portable devices such as mobile phone handsets and MP3 players. As a result, emerging LPD applications are expected to provide substantial growth opportunities for power management technologies traditionally associated with portable devices.