Just walking makes electricity.Useful Energy Harvesting in the IoT Era

Earlier this month, an interesting facility was built at the airport in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It is a pie plate filled with the bottom of the aisle connecting the airport terminal. When people step on the aisle floor, the pressure energy turns into electricity. A large screen installed inside the airport shows how much electricity has been created in real time. The airport explains that some of the energy that drives electric displays is also supplied through piezoelectric panels.

“We have set up a pie plate channel to promote ways to develop the city in a sustainable way,”


Al-Samisi, chief operating officer of Abu Dhabi Airport.



“70 to 80 percent of energy is wasted.”

Focusing on ‘energy harvesting’ technology that converts waste energy into electricity was quite an issue. Analysts say that as number of IoT sensors increases exponentially, they are trying to recover energy that is leaking from outside. According to the Korean Intellectual Property Office, there were 1,370 patents registered from 2008 to last year. Since 2014, around 150 patents have been registered annually. As for Abu Dhabi Airport, more and more companies are constructing energy Harvesting facilities in terms of marketing. According to a market research company called Research & Market, the energy Harvard market last year was $388.2M USD and is expected to grow by an average of 10.8 percent by 2023.

The term energy Harvesting first appeared in 1954. When Bell Research Institute in the U.S. introduced solar cell technology, it used the expression “harvest” of energy that is thrown away. 

Energy Harvesting began with the idea that some of the energy leaked without meaning could not be recycled. Although it was not appropriate to use electricity until now, this situation changed as low-power IoT became popular.

energy harvest에 대한 이미지 검색결과

However, the popularization speed of energy Harvesting is not as fast as expected. The biggest drawback is the uneven output. Solar cells become useless on cloudy or rainy days. Piezoelectric plates cannot produce as much electricity as they need at a time when people or cars are not enough. It is pointed out that energy conversion efficiency is also not satisfactory.


“At this point, products that are profitable are energy harvesting facilities that use waste heat from factories and medical sensors that need to be worn for 24 hours. Energy efficiency needs to be increased by 10 times if they are applied to wearable devices that have displays like Smart Watch.”


Professor Cho Byung-jin of KAIST’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

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