A crowdfunded startup is taking the smartwatch to a new level with the invention and imminent commercial launch of the first such device to be powered entirely by a person’s body heat.
Most smartwatches on the market need to be recharged every day or two, but the PowerWatch from Matrix Industries never needs to be removed for charging thanks to thermoelectric technology that harvests energy from a person’s body to constantly power the device.
“Thermoelectrics are materials that convert temperature differences to electricity,” explained Matrix Industries’ CEO Akram Boukai. “The larger the temperature difference, the more electric power can be generated. Matrix’s thermoelectric technology is 1/20th the cost and more efficient than other thermoelectrics on the market.”
|The MATRIX PowerWatch is the first smart watch to be powered solely by a person’s body heat, thanks to thermoelectric energy-harvesting technology developed by its inventor, Matrix Industries. (Source: Matrix Industries)|
The company has patented a proprietary energy-harvesting platform that includes new nanomaterials and thermal-engineering technology to create energy.
Designers of wearable technology like smartwatches and other health and fitness-related devices are seeking new energy sources, as the bulk batteries historically used for mobile power don’t work for these new form factors.
Energy harvesting is a particularly attractive alternative because it eliminates the need to charge or change batteries, therefore is more practical and cost effective, Boukai said.
“One of the main pain points for wearable and IoT products is the requirement that their batteries need to be charged frequently, sometimes on a daily basis,” he said. “Energy harvesting has the potential to eliminate this need.”
Harvesting energy from body heat in particular is a good fit for smartwatches, fitness trackers and other health-related devices because it means the wearers don’t have to take them off, he said.
“They can be worn during the day and at night in a continuous fashion so that the consumer receives benefits of both activity and sleep tracking without the constant interruption of charging its battery,” Boukai said. Further, Matrix Industries’ energy-harvesting technology could be integrated into smart textiles in the future for clothing applications, he said.
“In the short term, we are focused on energy harvesting in wearables and the Internet of Things,” Boukai said. In the future, the technology developed by Matrix Industries also can be reverse engineered to provide cooling for efficient and lower-cost refrigerators, he added.
The company sought funding on Indiegogo to develop its technology, raising nearly $1.1 million in their campaign, far surpassing their fundraising goal of $100,000. Matrix Industries already has locked down a manufacturing partner for the MATRIX PowerWatch and is looking at a July commercial release and accepting pre-orders on its website, Boukai said.
Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.