Wearables and wireless charging: What does the future hold?

Dr. Jerry Wilmink, Founder and CEO of WiseWear recently sat down with Smithers Apex to further expand on the challenges that wireless charging and wearable technology are facing.

Smithers: What is the biggest wireless power challenge with wearables?

Dr. Wilmink: We are in the midst of a Wearable Revolution. Wearables are rapidly multiplying, and since 2011 the wearables market has increased by 1700%. It is estimated that in 2016 wearable sales will near $6 Billion in the US alone, and there are no signs of this revolution slowing down. In fact, in a recent Nature paper, Kat Austin predicts that within five years there could be half a billion wearable devices strapped onto our bodies (Austin et al, Nature (2015).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most ubiquitous wearables today include: fitness trackers, smart watches, smart eyewear and smart jewelry. By and large, most of these devices utilize ultra-low power consumption Bluetooth low energy (BLE); however, these devices still require frequent recharging. Current wearables utilize one of the following kinds of batteries: lithium-ion or lithium-polymer batteries, thin film batteries, energy harvesting (solar, kinetic, thermal, piezoelectric), and soon graphene batteries.  Each battery type has advantages and limitations, and consequently the creation and utilization of efficient battery power sources is arguably one of the biggest challenges that face wearable developers today.

Wearables empower individuals to live without wires. Therefore it is quite ironic that such devices require wires for charging. This leaves users with the extra burden of ensuring they brought the proper charging wires & connectors with them, in the event their device runs out of juice.

In a recent Wired Article, Alex Gruzen posed a very interesting question: “what if all of your wearables could be charged wirelessly while you’re on the go?” Wireless charging is beginning to be included in newer wearables, and there are several groups to thank for this progress. One group is the WiTricity team. The WiTricity team has been working in the wireless charging area for almost a decade, and they currently are a member of the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP). The A4WP is an industry consortium made up of more than 100 leading companies including Intel, Broadcom, Qualcomm, DuPont, HP, Acer, Dell and Samsung, looking to create a universal specification for wireless power transfer via magnetic resonance, called Rezence™. For consumer electronics and wearables, wireless charging is the key to a world without wires or disposable batteries.

Smithers: Where did the idea of WiseWear, come from?

Dr. Wilmink: In 2010, my grandfather fell in his home. Like many seniors who suffer from falls, my grandfather never fully recovered from his injuries and passed away two months later. In light of his death, I was motivated to right this wrong and began development of advanced wearable devices for health and safety applications.

WiseWear began operations in my San Antonio garage in 2013 and has grown exponentially to date. Our team is a collection of leading PhDs, executives, designers, product developers, and biomedical engineers who have come together to bring the most advanced wearable offerings to the market. Our consumer health care products strive to empower people to live happy, healthy, safe and productive lives.

Smithers: What are you most looking forward to hearing, at Wireless Power Summit 2015?

Dr. Wilmink:  Details on the A4WP/PMA merger and impact on use of wireless charging in consumer products.The Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and Power Matters Alliance (PMA), industry leaders in wireless charging technology, have announced the signing of the merger agreement between the two organizations. The merger positions the combined organization as the leader in wireless charging, bridging two core wireless charging technologies. The transaction establishes a core charging standard supporting a wide range of consumer, medical, military and industrial applications.