Unless you’re a tech historian, the name Marty Cooper won’t jog your memory, even though you probably use a spin-off of his invention several times a day.
Marty invented the first handheld cell phone back in 1973, and is credited as the pioneer behind our current wireless telecommunications industry.
Well, mostly wireless…
At a youthful 87, Marty is still around today, and says his original invention has one glaring flaw.
You have to keep charging its battery.
Of course, that’s something we’ve all grown accustomed to, but it’s a real annoyance having to keep a charger nearby at all times. And with more phones in the world than people, it can be tough even finding an outlet. Have you been to an airport recently?
Well, in the next several years, charging your wireless devices with a cord will become as obsolete as the “Please be kind, rewind” reminders we all came to hate with VHS movie rentals.
And thank goodness – because between smart phones, fitness trackers, wireless medical devices, and now enhanced virtual reality glasses, we’re all turning into a mobile RadioShack!
Looking ahead at this disruptive technology, companies are approaching the cordless charging problem from all angles.
A company called Wi-Charge believes that a laser should beam signals from ceiling fixtures to cell phones. Another called U-Beam is investing in technology that would charge your phone using sound waves!
But the most compelling technology coming to market, at least according to Cooper who sits on their board, comes from a company called Energous Corp. (Nasdaq: WATT).
Energous has designed several prototypes that actually charge your wireless device using the very radio frequencies that allow it to communicate. Any of your wireless gadgets will be able to pull energy directly out of the air and charge instantly in your pocket, purse, secret government location – wherever. If it can receive a radio signal, it can charge.
Maybe you’ve seen the wireless charging mats on sale already, but these are more novelty items since they require you to leave your phone with a device that’s still plugged into the wall. But these wireless devices Energous is working on will take us one step closer to that future without wires we’re all waiting for.
But where there’s innovation, there’s a two-ton, bureaucratic, regulatory body (with fangs) standing in the way.
Indeed, one of the biggest hurdles to making the technology work are the regulatory approvals from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The FCC is charged with ensuring all radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable communications are properly managed and do not interfere with one another.
If you remember how long it took to officially allow mobile communication devices to be used during plane flight take-off and landings, I need to say no more. Expect radio spectrum approvals for using this technology to be extremely slow.
One alternative is using smart phone case technology to extend the battery life of your device.
Nikola labs made a big splash at TechCrunch Disrupt this year when they revealed a smart phone case that harnesses and recycles unused energy your phone creates, simply by searching for cell towers and Wi-Fi routers.
With regular use, this earth-loving smart case can extend your battery life by about a third. However, get the case close enough to a Wi-Fi router and your smart phone will start charging in a similar manner to the Energous technology.
Bottom line: we are on the cusp of new charging technology that will allow us to finally cut those pesky cords.
If we look back at truly disruptive technology, it’s the subtle technology advances that no one was paying attention to that changed how we live our lives.
SMS text messaging was built into phone networks in the 1980s as a back-up method to communicate using the phones control channel. With smart phones, the technology pivoted and is now globally worth over $100 billion.
And finally, there’s battery life itself. We wouldn’t even need to worry about plugging these devices in so much if they’d just stay charged a little longer.
Rodney will be talking about the latest development in energy storage in June’s Boom & Bust, out later this month. Several companies are starting to maneuver into this space. Overall, it’s a trend that could result in another $625 billion in economic growth by 2025, not to mention make technology more efficient! So look out for that in the coming weeks.
Until then, stay plugged in!
Editor, BioTech Intel Trader