Dutch chip designer raises $10m for energy harvesting power management

November 21, 2019 //By Peter Clarke
Dutch energy harvesting PMIC firm Nowi raises $10 million
Dutch chip designer Nowi raises $10m to take its energy harvesting power management integrated circuit (PMIC) into commercial production in 2020.

The funding for the Delft-based company comes from Amsterdam-based venture capital firm Disruptive Technology Ventures (DTV). Seed funding in 2018 from DTV and the Dutch government helped to prototype Nowi's technology and reach various milestones, such as obtaining patents. The company has so far raised a total of $14m.

"As we launch our first NW-A2.3 energy harvesting PMIC product in the first half of 2020 we will further expand our commercial activities," said Simon van der Jagt, CEO of Nowi, in a statement.

Nowi said it intends to use the funds to take it into a broad range of IoT applications as well as consumer applications such as smart watches and other wearable devices. Nowi announced in 2018 that its energy harvesting PMIC technology would be integrated in the MMT smart watch module.

In 2019 Nowi was able to demonstrate the use of its technology supporting a Huawei narrow-band IoT chip (see Huawei puts Dutch energy harvest PMIC next to NB-IoT SoC).

The major claim Nowi makes is that its technology is compact and needs very few external components compared with other approaches. It does this while remaining open to multiple energy harvesting sources such as solar, mechanical, thermal and radio.

Simon van der Jagt, CEO of Nowi, told eeNews Europe this was due to exceptional voltage and energy conversion efficiency within the PMIC which does not require the usually bulky inductors. Van der Jagt declined to go into details about the technology. One might speculate that it is based on some form of switched capacitor technology.

The company, founded in 2015, has a history that goes back to academic roots at Delft University.

Van der Jagt said: "It's a new topology that does require so many external components to get to 80 to 90 percent conversion efficiency." He also pointed out that use of the Nowi PMIC can avoid the use of 15 or more external components that can be responsible for an additional $1 on the bill of materials and $1-worth of PCB real estate.

Menno van der Marel, of DTV, backed up van der Jagt in a statement: "Compared to all other PMIC alternatives on the market Nowi has been able to decrease the PCB assembly footprint by 97 percent and reduce the BOM cost by $1 per device, while still having top efficiency performance."

Nowi also claims that its solution is pushing past established big names in analog and power management such as Texas Instruments and Analog Devices.

Van der Jagt said that one of the keys to success in both IoT and consumer applications will be the ability to support frequent polling of energy sources with an adaptive PMIC, even a machine learning type of chip. It also needs to be multi-purpose to reach across fragmented markets. He added that being able to change the operating point depending on the amount of sunlight or angle of illumination could be key to making a battery-free application work. "We've shown that our PMIC can adapt in milliseconds," he said.

Related links and articles:

www.nowi-energy.com

www.dtventures.nl

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