Let there be light: Revving up the evolution of power
The advent of a public-serving power grid, first deployed through a commercially-usable infrastructure in the late 19th Century, was the brainchild of several scientific luminaries of the day, among them Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, two industry-defining pioneers proceeding along parallel and divergent paths.
While Edison’s first commercially-launched power station, situated on New York City’s Pearl Street, supplied enough Direct Current (DC) power to light 1,200 bulbs in an area little over one square mile, it was Tesla’s advocacy of Alternating Current (AC), financially backed by the emerging industrial giant Westinghouse, that would become the gold standard bearer over the ensuing century for delivering electric current over large distances.
This historical tidbit is significant because it points to a basic developmental inequity in the continuing story of modern power generation. For whereas electronics have advanced at a breathtaking speed, revolutionizing literally every aspect of our lives and enabling the emergence of countless new technologies, devices and standards, the consumption of power at the user endpoint has remained decidedly stagnant and virtually unchanged since its initial introduction.
To illustrate this point, consider the following scenario: Take an individual, circa 1897, sitting in an office that typified that age and transport her forward through time to its present-day counterpart. Virtually nothing atop the modern day desk would be recognizable. None of the digital devices that define our lives today – from smartphones, mobile computers and tablets to faxes, printers and beyond – would resonate with even a remote ring of familiarity.
But if that same individual were to follow the trail of wire emanating from these devices under the desk leading to a socket in the wall, a glimmer of recognition would inevitably register in her eye. Two prongs of metal plugged into a power source. Yes, I can trace this from my late 19th-century reality; these must be electric-powered devices. Riddle solved, a measure of the familiar restored, culture shock allayed.
Tesla, even in the nascent days of the electrical power revolution, recognized the potential of wireless power. As early as 1891, he demonstrated that wireless energy transfer used to power electronic devices was a possibility and aspired to achieve intercontinental wireless transmission of industrial power in his ambitious and eventually aborted Wardenclyffe Tower project, based on Long Island in New York.
Some 120 years later, we’re well into an era where the ever-expanding accumulation of human knowledge is accessible through always-on wireless connectivity to a globally available worldwide information network.
We’ve unleashed a mobile communications revolution that enables us to converse, connect and organize on-the-go, unencumbered by a tangle of wires.
Our curiosity knows no earthly limits as we excitedly await Curiosity’s next wireless visual transmission from the surface of Mars.
And yet, the revolution in sharing the lifestyle transforming possibilities of wireless as a conduit for power transmission still awaits acceptance and implementation in the mainstream.
Yes, we are still hopelessly dependent on that antiquated plug-and-socket paradigm. And that’s precisely where the Power Matters Alliance comes in to play as an energizing difference maker, poised to transform the future of power, today.
Going mobile for real: Trailblazing the first truly wire-free power frontier
The mobile communications revolution in its current smartphone incarnation comprises the single most important development since the dawn of the Internet. And it has gone far beyond making phone calls; the smartphone adds a new dimension to life on-the-go portability and always-on connectivity to critical data, lending new meaning to the concept of multi-tasking.
And yet, when it comes to powering these devices the irony is as acute as it gets. Far from being a wire-free experience, charging the can’t-live-without-it mobile device inevitably begs the frantically-asked question, “Where do I plug in?” – often followed by the equally panicked realization that your charger is somewhere else…
Even if you leave the house with a fully-charged phone there are no guarantees. Ten years ago, a mobile phone lasted a week between charges. Today’s multi-tasking smartphones don’t make it to the afternoon. Indeed, mobile battery life has become one of the focal obstacles in promoting the exponential development of the app-rich smartphone and tablet landscape.
The chasm between silicon development and battery power is widening, threatening to become an irreversible abyss. Silicon capabilities are consistently expanding at astounding rates, enabling the introduction of breathtaking features and intuitive, game-changing interfaces with each new product introduction. In contrast, advances in battery power provision have barely progressed over the past decade, a fact which seriously threatens the ongoing development of the ever slimming smart device; there is simply no more room to shrink down to if the batteries aren’t following suit.
So we have a smart device that guzzles power to fuel its brain, batteries that can’t possibly supply according to demand, and consumers forever concerned about reaching the next wall socket – if indeed they at all remembered to bring along their device-specific charger when they left the house in the morning.