As the number of sensors and autonomous units of various flavors continues to increase, the need for them to communicate with as little power as possible continues to grow. To date, those in search of the lowest power have had to turn to proprietary communication protocols, with the obvious downside being that they’re proprietary.
Imec, in collaboration with Panasonic, recently announced that they’ve reduced the power in standard protocols like Zigbee, Bluetooth Low Energy, and the scheme used for body area networks (BANs) by a factor of 3 to 5, bringing energy use down to 2.7 nJ/bit. They did this by re-engineering the transmitter analog circuits, turning them into digitally-controlled analog.
While this doesn’t reduce the power to the level of the best proprietary schemes, it does bring them within a much closer range (perhaps 2x off instead of 10x).
More details can be found in their release.