There is a point where tech revolutions meet and amplify each other. Nanotechnology will be a far bigger game-changer for IoT than 5G. It will change the integrality of the IoT architecture and allow IoT deployment at a scale we can’t imagine.
The ultimate sensor
The sensor itself, the nerve of the IoT architecture will be deeply upgraded with sensitivity down to the molecular level. The nanosensors will be able to detect micro modifications in pressure, temperature, or chemical composition. This will allow us to collect far more precise data, but overall measure things that can’t be measured today.
The range of possibilities offered by nanosensors will change the way we conceive, make and use IoTs. If we take one sector as an example, the food industry, IoTs are today mostly present in the production process. Nanotechnologies will bring IoTs further as far as the end-user fridge, by detecting potential health risks in each and every chicken box. We can imagine that the presence of sensors all along the good cycle will not only drastically reduce the risk of contamination but also relieve the fastidious tracing with an individual serial number.
This becomes possible by a dramatic drop in size, cost and energy needs for sensors production and installation.
Ultra long-life battery
The question of the battery is at the core of an IoT deployment problematic. It represents a substantial part of the cost, during the deployment but even more for the maintenance.
If you can upscale the battery duration by 10x or 100x, but also conserve the battery capacity through time by multiplying the number of the charge cycle, it is a huge disruption for the number of IoT driven economic sectors, starting with electric autonomous cars.
It will impact also the size of the battery, smaller for better capacities, unleashing business models until now stuttering, like rural autonomous deliveries or drone transportation on long distances.
Cost and size decrease
The likely overall effect of the nanotechnology meeting IoT will be a considerable drop in their price (all along with their life cycle production, installation, maintenance), mostly due to the reduction of their sizes, as Jo de Boeck from IMEC explains.
A company like ATLANT 3D Nanosystems is working on new unique technology for advanced materials and microchip prototyping. They basically developed 3D printing at the atomic level. This technology allows, among other things, to get rid of huge and costly cleanrooms for micro and nanodevice production.
Straight from the prototyping phase, the cost of a new IoT can be cut by 97%. Allowing new start-ups and innovators to enter the market.
This innovation is the kind that can answer the increasing demand for IoT components, especially microchips, in a decentralized way. The billions of IoTs planned to flow the market for the next decades won’t match environmental criteria and the flexibility needed to reach an agile production system without nanotechnology.
Another characteristic of nanotechnology, and nanomaterials, is that it can offer robustness beyond imagination. As an example, some nanomaterials make the glass bend instead of break providing an incredible resistance to pressure and shocks.
Better data processing and communication
So as we saw how nanotechnology impacts the IoT physical object, its fabrication, and maintenance cost, we will see now that it also upgrades its connectivity.
Researchers are focusing now on two types of nanotechnology connections: molecular and electromagnetic. In both technologies, we basically keep the actual architecture logic: sensor — aggregator — gateway — cloud. But the data is transmitted in a far better efficient way.
A team from the University of Würzburg (Germany), led by Professor Bert Hecht, has converted electrical signals into radio waves using a low-footprint optical antenna that is only 800 nanometers in size.
We can’t apprehend the future possibilities of nanotechnologies meeting IoT without taking into consideration the AI and machine learning. The real revolution lies where those technologies intersect.
This is particularly relevant when approaching the near future of the smart city. IoT deployment brings traffic information to the control room. Decisions are partially automated under the control of humans. It is now impossible to delegate the decision fully to the AI, especially because of the “holes” in the grid. You will always have parts of the city where sensors are missing and those holes can lead the AI to bad decisions.
Once the nanosensors are deployed directly in the streets, lights, walls, all interconnected, this is when the AI can fully operate without constant human supervision.
All those revolutions won’t only democratize and upgrade IoT in the way we know it now, but considerably extend the range of their presence. It will open new fields, new markets, and new business models.
Every IoT company is able to develop a thick R&D program should, we deeply think, include nanotechnologies as a part of their research partnerships.
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Nanotechnology: How Small Chips Are Creating A Bigger, Brighter Future | Jo De Boeck (IMEC) (https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2019/02/28/nanotechnology-how-small-chips-are-creating-a-bigger-brighter-future/)
Where Nanotechnology, the IoT, and Industry 4.0 Meet | Liam Critchley (https://www.mouser.com/blog/where-nanotechnology-the-iot-and-industry-40-meet)
Internet of Nano Things (IoNT): Next Evolutionary Step in Nanotechnology | Anand Nayyar, Vikram Puri, Dac-Nhuong Le
Nanosensors in everyday life | Aleksandra Lobnik | TEDxCERN (youtu.be/mnJcP10Lr7g)
Nanotechnology: When Less is More | Julia Greer | TEDxManhattanBeach (https://youtu.be/_1jbigmsLBw)
About me // French Marketer who specialises in B2B tech and IoT. With the background of lobbying and over 10 years experience as creative director, I help IoT start-ups achieving stable growth, meaningful branding and long-lasting demand generation. More on www.dxm-agency.com