Wearables Predictions: Who to Watch for Prediction #6

This is the sixth post in a Wearable Industry Watch Series for each of the 10 Wearables Predictions.  Follow this blog or Twitter handle @WorkTechWork to be notified of each part of the series. To view all predictions and links to the other parts of the series, visit the Wearable Industry Watch Series.

Prediction #6: Wearable devices will need less frequent charging because of better energy storage and lower energy consumption.

For an intro to this topic as well as an introduction to Imprint Energy,  a company creating flexible batteries, check out this piece from Wearable World News: The Battery Bottleneck in Wearable Tech.

Better Energy Storage

Battery life is one of the common complaints of Google Glass which has a 570 mAh lithium-polymer battery.  While it does look bulky on the side of an Explorer’s head, the relatively small size does make it possible to charge in two hours.  Speedy recharge time, however, is not what this part of the prediction is about.  Wearable users need better energy storage.

Breakthroughs in energy storage are rare on account of the challenges associated with increasing energy density or storage capacity.  Increasing storage capacity generally negatively impacts charge efficiency, the ability to maintain storage capacity after many cycles of use, recharge, repeat, repeat, repeat…  A small battery with lots of energy that can only be used a few times is no good.

Scott Elrod, Vice President and Director of the Hardware Systems Laboratory research organization at Xerox’s PARC and a team of researchers have found a way to increase energy density 30% by using print technology.  Learn more in this video interview by Robert Scoble, Startup Liaison Officer for Rackspace:

ScobleXeroxParcBattery

 

A 30% improvement on the battery life of Google Glass will get you about 20 more minutes of video recording.  It still isn’t enough.  What if we could get 10x that?

Researchers at Stanford University’s Department of Chemical Engineering published an article July 27, 2014 covering research findings that both improve storage capacity and charge efficiency.   Forbes contributor Gordon Kelly writes in his piece Battery Life ‘Holy Grail’ Discovered. Phones May Last 300% Longer, “In future it would also allow batteries to become smaller (for example, half the size of a current battery but with twice the capacity).”

Size does matter in wearable devices and half the size is certainly something wearable device designers will be interested in as batteries are usually the largest components in wearable devices.

A copy of the research article can be purchased from the journal Nature here:  Interconnected hollow carbon nanospheres for stable lithium metal anodes 

I look forward to seeing this and other improvements in storage capacity and charge efficiency implemented in wearable devices.

Lower Energy Consumption

There are many creative solutions for lower energy consumption.  We’re more likely to see solutions on the market for lower energy consumption prolonging battery life in the near future than we are to see 300% improvement in battery storage capacity.  Lower energy consumption is going to come about because of energy conservation through multiple methods, methods that when combined can provide energy savings that keep wearable devices going longer and longer.

One of the key enablers of wearable device adoption is Bluetooth Low Energy.  With its lower energy consumption, wearable devices can sync with other IoT devices while consuming less power than classical Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

In Kane Fulton’s TechRadar article covering an interview of Noel Hurley, Deputy GM of ARM’s CPU Group, three key energy consumption solutions caught my eye.

  1. Chips specifically designed for particular use cases rather than off-the-shelf chips
  2. Software improvement that reduces CPU usage over new processor design
  3. Stripping functionality of systems down to only elements used in the wearable

ARM is not alone in the battle to reduce energy consumption.  PsiKick is well on its way to completely changing sensing technology by combining ultra-low-power system-on-chip (SoC) design and Sub-Threshold processing, processing that occurs using the energy that leaks through a digital switch even when the switch is off.  PsiKick can then use several different energy harvesting techniques to supply this energy, resulting in endless operation without a battery.  If this technology interests you, visit the PsiKick website or read this article: A Batteryless Sensor Chip for the Internet of Things.

These advancements in wearable energy technology are exciting and I’d love to hear more about efforts to reduce the frequency wearable devices need charging.  Please comment below or reach out and lets chat.

Next Prediction: Who to Watch For Prediction #7

Previous Prediction: Who to Watch for Prediction #5

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