- The world of wearables promises to radically transform how we monitor and perceive our bodies. But, their uptake has been hampered by poor design and limited functionality.
- Fortunately, the world of wearables is rapidly changing. Ugly and bulky wearables are being replaced by small, comfortable devices that people are more willing to purchase and wear. Some of these new wearables are even elegant and “cool.”
- But, even the coolest wearable device is useless if it runs out of power. Wearables are notoriously power-hungry. Unfortunately, battery technology hasn’t changed much in the past two decades.
- Batteries are ripe for revolution. In fact, they need replacing.
- Two trends are helping technologists develop new solutions to the battery problem.
The first is, of course, the energy sector itself. We’re getting good at harvesting mass-market energy from new sources (solar, wind etc.), and we’re just as inquisitive when it comes to developing low-power energy sources: your own body heat and natural or ambient household light, for example. Recently, the University of California San Diego demonstrated a biobattery powered by sweat. Kinetic energy is another promising power source. You know those shoes kids love to wear with embedded LED lights? This form of footwear is powered by the kinetic energy released in each footfall.
Second, innovators are working to develop smaller silicon chips (the “brains” of many wearable devices) that consume less power. Why? The Internet of Things (IoT) has everything to do with the miniaturization revolution. Using the Web to allow people to control appliances with mobile and wearable devices may make life easier for millions. Yet, to be effective and adopted, both the IoT and wearables must run longer using less power and more efficient batteries.
The ultimate dream is to eliminate batteries entirely. But, we still have a long way to go. Yogesh Ramadass, lead design engineer at Texas Instruments, has observed that we can only harvest a minimal amount of energy from body heat compared to what are able to harness from the sun. But, innovators are rapidly making advances in body-powered devices. One day, the idea of powering wearable devices with batteries may appear as quaint as using wires to connect to the Internet.
For more on the evolving world of body-powered wearable tech, please view the video below.