SAN DIEGO — Continuous advances with wireless sensor network (WSN) technologies will allow for smart buildings within the next decade, according to a report published by ON World, a global technology research firm.

“Wireless sensor networks are becoming essential for smart building systems,” said Mareca Hatler, ON World’s research director. “Technology advances for WSN components such as radio sensitivity, ultra-low power consumption, MEMS sensors, and energy harvesting have accelerated adoption in commercial buildings.”

Self-powered wireless sensors that utilize energy harvesting have eliminated one of the remaining challenges for wireless sensor networks — avoiding the labor cost and environmental waste of replacing thousands of batteries. Although EnOcean has a significant market lead for wireless energy harvesters, ZigBee Green Power is emerging with radios that consume 100 times less power than other ZigBee PRO radios.

A vision of the future is a world where devices and sensors communicate in real time and make autonomous decisions. Smart buildings would know when offices were entered and exited and provide comfort, lights, security, and energy just in time. To make this a reality, says ON World, smart building sensing devices need to be wireless, pervasive, extremely low power, have small footprints, and require little or no labor to keep them working. By 2018, the firm projects that WSN radios will have two times the network range, energy harvesters will be four times smaller, and wireless sensors will be capable of being powered with a coin cell battery.

ON World’s survey of 111 WSN developers found that approximately half of these (47) target commercial building automation. More than three-quarters of the building WSN developers are providing solutions for HVAC/energy and lighting. Twenty percent have wireless sensor networks with greater than 1,000 nodes and 9 percent have deployed networks with at least 20,000 nodes.

In ON World’s survey, ZigBee PRO and WiFi are the most commonly used or planned WSN technologies by building WSN developers, followed by EnOcean, 6LoWPAN, 802.15.4 and proprietary. Over half of the building WSN developers indicate that 40 percent or more of their deployed WSN nodes are autonomously powered (e.g., batteries or energy harvesting). Seventeen percent indicate that they use harvested energy to power over 40 percent of their WSN devices.

By 2019, cumulative WSN device shipments in commercial buildings will reach 100 million, an increase of 830 percent from 2011.

The report synopsis and a free executive summary are available from

Publication date: 10/28/2013

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!