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Energy Harvesting or the power of “powerless”: The best thing I’ve seen at CES 2013

HardwareBlog
by Desire Athow
, 16 Jan 2013Blog
Energy Harvesting or the power of “powerless”: The best thing I’ve seen at CES 2013

We first came across an audio solution for mobile handsets (otherwise known as a micro speaker driver) that allow manufacturers to pump more power to speakers without damaging them. On the HTC Windows Phone 8X for example, we were told that this allowed for eight times more power to be output (4W vs 0.5W), resulting in a much more powerful audio experience.

Next was an intriguing demonstration of how the ability to dynamically modifying data on a device, say a tablet, without actually opening the box. This is useful when it comes to asset tracking or configuration management; retailers can expect a significant gain in efficiency which translates into massive cost savings.

One can envisage a scenario when the user can place an electronic voucher, configure the network access and change language settings for a tablet to be gifted, without having physical access to the device.

NXP’s Thomas Hinz then ran us through a car-to-car demo that hinted at what the next generation of smart cars will be. Expect future models to be laden with sensors which will analyse and broadcast in real time data about the car’s location or status (amongst other things), data that will be vital for emergency services.

Our interlocutor, confirmed that a memorandum of understanding has already been signed with major European car makers and that smart cars should appear on our roads from 2015 onwards.

The coolest thing we saw on NXP’s booth and indeed at CES was energy harvesting, a deceptively simple concept that could have virtually endless applications.

The one demoed was that of a wireless smart light switch that doesn’t require any power to run. In a nutshell, the mere action of toggling the switch on and off generates enough power to trigger an action. In the case of the switch, send out a radio signal that can turn on and off or dim a light from as far as 10m.

Given Cherry’s kudos, we reckon that another application could be that of a truly wireless and “powerless” keyboard where simply pressing keys on a keyboard would produce enough power to get the thing running, with an onboard capacitor storing extra power generated to reduce lag and ensure that the device never runs out of juice.

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