Wireless power isn’t an entirely new concept. The first person who tried to do it was none other than Nikola Tesla, and that was back in 1890s. Today, more than 100 years later, it is a reality.
I first saw it work on this Ted Talk by Eric Giler back in August 2009. He demonstrated a version of it that was developed in MIT between 2005 to 2007 and led to a spin-off company, WiTricity. Other than WiTricity, there are a couple of companies or organisations that developed versions of wireless power including WiPower, PowerbyProxi, Qi (pronounced “Chee”) and the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP). Their technology is all largely based on electromagnetic induction principles, although WiTricity and PowerbyProxi are a bit more distinct in their technology and both have Intellectual Property. WiTricity uses magnetically coupled resonance, it does not depend on line of sight, and it covers a distance up to several meters. On the other hand, PowerbyProxi developed something they call Dynamic Harmonization Control which they claim to be the most efficient wireless power transmission and they also developed a wirelessly rechargeable double-A battery!
Although the most common application in the market now is charging mobile electronic devices (smartphones, media players, tablets or laptops), the real potential for wireless power transfer is huge. Since this is a sports & health technology blog, let’s look in those areas:
Firstly in the medical field, implantable medical devices like artificial (permanent) pacemakers will no longer need to be replaced when the batteries lose power, which means fewer surgeries required, less time spent on post-op recovery and rehabilitation and also brings new meaning to “permanent pacemakers”; and not just pacemakers, lots of other implantable medical devices could take advantage of wireless power – ventricular assist devices, swallowable endoscopes, deep brain neurostimulators, cochlear implants, foot drop implants, gastric stimulators etc. In case you were wondering about the risks of wirelessly powering devices in the human body, engineers in Stanford have already proven it is safe and effective.
In sports engineering, wearable inertia sensors tracks and measures movements of athletes in the field using GPS, accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers; with improved wireless tracking (indoor and outdoor) and increased data storage capabilities, the athletes can be monitored for as long as the devices’ battery has power. But if a stadium or a field or an indoor court can have wireless power, that limitation is gone, the sensors would be powered right in the field while being worn on the athletes. Also, this technology would enable sensors to be embedded in sports equipment permanently – solves the problem of designing an outlet for charging while keeping it water resistant. It could be balls, rackets, surfboards, snowboards, paddles, bicycle helmets, shoes, the list goes on. In fact, 94Fifty has already pushed this wireless power technology into their instrumented basketball using the Qi Specifications. You can read more in their Kickstarter funding page here.
Personally, what I think will be perfect is if we could combine an electricity generating equipment like the Soccket with wireless power transfer. So imagine running shoes generating electricity as you run and that is transferred wirelessly to power your heart rate monitor and GPS watch and MP3 player. That would be awesome.
Anyway. For developers who would like to incorporate wireless power into their products, just check out any of the companies or organisations mentioned above to find out about their licensing options or standards for wireless transmitters and receivers; and may the
force (wireless) power be with you!
Thanks for reading!