NB-IoT and Energy Harvesting Come Together through Murata, DT, and Nowi

Subscribe To Download This Insight

By Jamie Moss | 2Q 2022 | IN-6512

The collaboration between three IoT industry players provides a new method of energy harvesting.

Registered users can unlock up to five pieces of premium content each month.

Log in or register to unlock this Insight.


Energy Autonomous


At the start of March, at the revitalized Mobile World Congress in 2022, Murata, Deutsche Telekom (DT), and Nowi launched what they claimed to be the smallest energy harvesting Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) module. This was a collaboration between IoT industry participants from three different domains, connectivity hardware (Murata), connectivity services (DT), and power management technology (Nowi). The result was the commercialized integration of Murata’s 1YS NB-IoT module, with DT’s ‘nuSIM’ integrated Subscriber Identity Module (iSIM) technology, and Nowi’s NH2 energy harvesting Power Management Integrated Circuit (PMIC) chip. Their collective aim was the development of an “energy autonomous cellular IoT” communications product, which has now been named the “Autonomous NB-IoT Development Solution” (ANDS). Energy harvesting seems to be an emergent IoT trend in 2022, with E-PEAS having launched its energy harvesting optimized antenna this January.

Despite Murata being a large electronics manufacturer, IoT hardware is a small part of its business, and one where it plays selectively, supplying Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) modules based on Cat.M, NB-IoT, and LoRaWAN. Even in the cellular module market, Murata is a minor participant with seven models on offer, the 1YS being a Release 14 compliant NB2 variant of its 1SS model. DT launched nuSIM in March 2020, as an integrated SIM—not a separate physical component but a secure environment designed into other hardware at the transistor level—for NB-IoT specifically. It exists to reduce complexity, reduce the Bill of Materials (BoM), improve power consumption, and to lower IoT module and device prices for the acutely price sensitive sensor-driven NB-IoT market. Lastly, Nowi’s NH2 is a mere 3mm-square chip that can harvest power from ambient sources including light and movement, designed for use wherever space is at a premium.

Maximize Utility


The combination of Murata, DT, and Nowi’s expertise is atypical of the IoT, as the market is buoyed by synergistic core competencies, instead of the development of monolithic ability. Their new ANDS product exists to satisfy the most space-constrained applications, as well as the lowest power but most remote and necessarily long-lived applications, where replacing batteries is not economical or not practicable. ANDS provides ready-to-go out-of-the-box embedded connectivity, thanks to a DT International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) being pre-provisioned on the nuSIM, and is also designed to minimize cost while maximizing utility. It is true that the addition of the NH2 PMIC increases the size and BoM of the product, from the 13.2mm by 10.6mm of Murata’s original 1YS module, to the 17.3mm by 13.9mm of the ANDS. And while this seems counter-intuitive to the ethos of NB-IoT, the extra device life-expectancy and enhanced quantity of transmit-receive activity it allows, enabling new IoT applications, more than compensates.

Indeed, an absolute obsession with a minimum price at all costs is not healthy. Just because it can be affordable to connect anything, that does not mean it is sensible to do so. This may be one of the most prescient lessons for the IoT industry from the news recently that Sigfox has entered receivership. If the technological enablers required must be so cheap as to be essentially free for a device to be connected, the party seeking to do so should question whether it has a valid business model. Extended capability should be worth paying for and should be easily affordable. The focus on minimal cost seems to stem from a historic desire to pay as little as possible for connectivity specifically and, ergo, subscription plans, which is in truth a systematic aversion to unpredictability. Simple tariff plans work in conjunction with ANDS to help device Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) develop their IoT projects faster, with greater confidence in the telecoms hardware and services they are using, and in cellular telecommunications at large.

Extra Edge Intelligence


Advancing NB-IoT adoption outside of China has been a slow process. But the IoT is not a market driven by hype. It is a market driven by decisions made as and when it is appropriate to do so. Adding extra functionality to NB-IoT through iSIM technology and especially through energy harvesting is a smart decision, with the three technologies being mutually complementary. Making enabling technologies cheaper will not necessarily create an IoT business model where there was none previously but adding new abilities is what it can do. Nowi’s NH2 energy harvesting is ANDS’ most transformative feature, so it matters to consider when and where it will be useful. Connections that are not subject to either natural or artificial light will not benefit from it unless they move, nor will connections that are do not move benefit if they are not routinely exposed to light. It should be noted that NH2 cannot harvest from both kinetic and photoactive sources simultaneously.

Water and gas meters that are stationary and enclosed would not benefit, but asset trackers would, whether they are stationary and outdoors, or in regular motion. NB-IoT was not designed for mobile applications, but a self-charging battery would certainly help with the added power consumption that comes with cell tower re-acquisition, as well as with the need to stay powered on for longer to download firmware updates, allowing for sensor-based devices that have extra edge intelligence. ANDS helps DT’s efforts as an international cellular connectivity provider by being pre-provisioned within potentially innovative new IoT devices. While Murata will have the opportunity to develop its market presence, precious few vendors having shipped any meaningful quantities of NB-IoT modules outside of China, regardless of their overall market share. For Nowi, market exposure alongside major partners Murata and DT may place it front of mind as the go-to energy harvesting vendor for other IoT module vendors and device OEMs too.



Companies Mentioned