Glimmers of power innovation at CES, but only glimmers

22 January 2015 by Steve Blum
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Next year, you won’t be able to see it.

With power now the primary limiting factor for improvements in wearable devices, smart phones and other mobile devices, expect incremental improvements in capabilities and performance this year, but nothing radically game changing. New energy sources are nowhere near commercialisation, judging from what was on display at CES.

One positive development was the announcement of the merger of two of the three wireless charging standards organisations – Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and Power Matters Alliance – and an expression of willingness on the part of the third – the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) – to think about joining in. Rethink Wireless has great summary of it all. I spoke to reps from A4WP and WPC at the show, as well as device makers, and the most commonly cited barrier to adoption of wireless charging was the lack of a clear standard. Only about 2% of the mobile handsets made last year featured wireless charging capabilities.

I only found a couple of companies pitching novel power sources. The Paper Battery Company was showing what a rep described as super duper capacitors made partly out of paper. Not a battery replacement, but that kind of technology could work in tandem with bursty sources to smooth out supply.

The coolest energy gizmo, though, was shown by a French company, Enerbee. It was showing a small generator that runs on random motion, the first step towards a truly tiny one that can power wearables. The company is working on a proof of concept device that combines its generator technology with an automatic watch movement. 1 spin produces 1 millijoule, enough for a low power Bluetooth pulse. A software developer kit is due out in March.