Power: The Real Innovation Issue

batteries1

One of the things I’ve keenly been made aware of lately, after having toured the Tesla plant and seeing what they are working, to the devices we have in our pockets and on our wrists, to the Apple Watch and the many upon many little booths at CES hawking solutions for this problem, it seems to me that the biggest elephant in the room that we have yet to address properly is simply, power.

No, not the kind of power that corrupts. The kind of power that you get from a battery, or from the wall, the sun, wind vanes, what have you. The number one most common accessory at CES was some way to extend or expand your devices battery life, to eek a little (or a lot) more juice from your devices battery.

Think about it: everything that we are talking about, be it smartphones (which are getting bigger and more powerful, yet no new battery technology have emerged in order to meet the new demand) wearables (I used to only charge my FitBit once a week, now its every three days – I just got a Charge HR – not to mention how my pebble watch drains my phones battery), Internet of Things devices (I bought the XYFind bluetooth tags over the Tile tags as they have a replaceable battery – the Tiles you simply throw away when they are done) and or course much more – electric cars, etc.

Seems to me that we are somewhat stuck at this level due to our current state of power requirements. What we really need is a breakthrough in battery life and/or some other way to power all of these devices.

There are some that hold promise, like uBeams ultrasonic charger , mini solar devices, wind powered, wind up. There are even sugar powered batteries, heartbeat powered batteries, footstep powered batteries, and even possible mini alcohol fuel cells.

Personally, (and here I put my futurist hat on) I think that the solution is likely not in pure battery storage. We all generate tons of power every day – Matrix style, humans themselves generate a lot of heat and kinetic energy. If we could capture that energy, while at the same time continue to optimize and reduce battery life requirements, maybe one day we’ll never have to worry about that battery low warning and will never again need to sit on the floor near an outlet in the airport.

photo credit – dean johnson – flickr