Veea, Energous Partnership Offers Passive IoT Tracking on the Edge

Published: December 6, 2023

Energous’ wireless power technology leverages Veea’s edge platform and gateway devices together in a single ecosystem.

Technology companies Veea and Energous have combined wireless power, connectivity and edge computing for real-time asset tracking for Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

The goal of the two companies is to provide seamless integration of Energous’ PowerBridge technology on Veea’s Edge Platform supporting an IoT platform, in a single wireless ecosystem. The technology will be provided to system integrators, IoT solution developers and network service providers that offer full IoT systems independent of users’ existing networks.

They hope is to accelerate time to market for solution providers, as well as reduce security risk and drive faster returns for those deploying the systems, says Cesar Johnston, Energous’ CEO.

Veea, Energous Partnership

Energous already offers its PowerBridges for IoT applications, supporting Wiliot’s passive, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) “ambient IoT” pixel devices, in addition to sensor solutions from multiple partners and electronic shelf labels in retail sites. Energous’ Power Bridge nodes transmit one watt of conducted power which is leveraged by the IoT Pixels to transmit their own ID and sensor information in some cases.

As the technology is being adopted in greater volume and for more applications, Energous found challenges for users who were gathering large volumes of data, but needed a way to manage that data securely and separately from existing networks.

Energous began working with Veea to offer a solution in which data could be collected and managed on the network edge, and sent to a server independent of existing network infrastructure.

“This is where [the benefit of] Veea kicks in because Veea is not just a communication device but also an edge device,” Johnston says.

Offering Access Points

Veea offers its access points—known as VeeaHubs—that each include a central processing unit (CPU) to manage data from wireless sensors. By processing the sensor data before forwarding it to a server, the system minimizes the volume of data that needs to be sent to the cloud—which potentially reduces the IoT system’s latency—while offering security in cases in which large volumes of data must not be at risk of interception due to external network access.

With its gateway and computing device, Veea has created what it calls a new IoT product category, says Mark Tubinis, Veea’s chief commercial officer.

“Think of them as an access point and an edge server in the same box,” said Tubinis.

The technology was the brainchild of Veea’s founder Allen Salmasi, an entrepreneur with 40 years in the communications industry. Salmasi co-founded several companies in the multi-access, edge computing space to address IoT data management, which led to the launching of Veea.

How it Works

The VeeaHub is about the size of a Wi-Fi router and comes with LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LoRa, Zigbee, Ethernet and USB connectivity. Matter connectivity is in the works for future versions of the hub.

With the partnership, Energous PowerBridge devices activate the IoT devices in its network, which in turn transmit their data to a single VeeaHub or multiple VeeaHubs deployed in the area. The data, such as temperature readings and the unique identity of each Wiliot device, could be processed on the VeeaHub according to the requirements of the customer.

For instance, the data can be filtered and then sent to a server, or can remain on the edge, and provide digital instructions to equipment controllers, prompting smart building systems — such as heating and air conditioning systems – to adjust their operation based on the IoT sensor data.

On the other hand, when sending processed data to a server, the VeeaHub can use an Ethernet, 4G or 5G connection, while not interfering with a facility’s existing Wi-Fi or private 5G network.

Early Applications

While the VeeaHubs are priced higher than standard access points because they can compute data on the edge, Tubinis says they typically send a fraction of the data of those standard devices, meaning that solutions that might have required two or three gateways can leverage a single hub.

Retail and logistics companies have begun testing the technology from the partnership to track merchandise in their own sites. Some common applications may include tracking assets or badges of staff members moving through a facility or to monitor the temperature or humidity in refrigeration units.

Already, Veea provides “all kinds of location aware solutions, and that’s where Energous became a great partner,” Tubinis says, since Energous sells solutions for similar applications.

“Once the two teams came together, we’ve able to move Energous’ application onto our platform very quickly and together we’re going into [new] opportunities,” said Tubinis.

Capturing Data

Johnston sees three key challenges in which the partnership’s combined technology will provide a solution. One is at industrial, retail or medical sites for uses such as capturing data from electronic shelves.

For instance, a brand that sets up its own displays within a store could capture data about product levels in their own display, without requiring the use of a store’s own wireless network. Such solutions would similarly be available for those who provide their medical devices and equipment to hospitals and manage them in cabinets or secure areas until the equipment is used.

“They want to be able to know when the merchandise is going low” without sending a representative on site at each store or hospital every few days, explained Johnston. Such brands or equipment providers could use the technology to capture real time data, without impacting the connectivity network already in use at each site.

Other Uses

A second application is using the system to more quickly launch and conduct proof of concept (POC) projects. In such cases, users often don’t want the complexity of testing a new system on their existing network, so the Veea and Energous solution providers an alternative.

“The devices have direct access to a cellular system so [users] can just bypass their network and go directly into the cloud,” Johnston says.

A third application centers around transportation. Vehicles such as delivery forklifts could be equipped with the Energous PowerBridges, sensor tags, and a VeeaHub to continually capture data while in transit, or even while parked in a storage yard, sending that filtered data via a 5G connection. In that way, the users could track what goods are in a truck or what temperature they are exposed to.

The companies work with software partners who could use the technology to build a single solution for their customers.

Looking forward, Johnston predicts early deployments to be centered around warehousing and logistics. “That’s where we’re seeing a lot of momentum right now,” he said.

Key Takeaways:
  • VeeaHub edge computing gateways, with Energous and Wiliot wireless network technology enable IoT solutions in which data can be managed locally for more security or to reduce data traffic on local networks.
  • Companies in logistics and retail are testing the technology to collect data about their sites.