Thoughts on energy harvesting for wearables

Thomas Kail, product manager, AMS AG

August 02, 2014

Thomas Kail, product manager, AMS AGAugust 02, 2014

Wearable applications including smart watches, sport watches, fitness bands and more are growing in popularity, and so, too, is the demand for intelligent sensors to use in them. If analyst predictions are correct, the market is going nowhere but up in the coming years.

So what are the keys to making wearables ubiquitous for daily life?

Significant features and functionality are a given, but equally critical is battery management. The more plentiful the features, the more power the wearable technology needs. Let's face it, nobody will be happy with wearables with short battery lives.

Wearables manufacturers have several options for increasing battery life. The first involves reducing the power consumption of each individual block to a minimum. Another is using higher capacitance batteries – although in most cases this will also lead to larger battery size.

But there’s a great third option for extending battery life for wearables: energy harvesting. What if simply wearing the device could also extend its battery life? The concept isn’t new. One of the earliest examples of an energy harvesting application is the well-known self-winding watch, which was invented in 1770.

Today’s energy harvesting technologies have progressed significantly and the number of developments around energy harvesting is growing quickly in many different market segments:

A key unique selling proposition for watchmaker Citizen is micro energy harvesting with solar energy. Most of the company’s watches are powered by light that is harnessed on the dial. Seiko, one of the pioneers of digital watches, launched a solar-powered GPS watch last year. Earlier this year, Tissot introduced T-Touch Expert Solar, which includes various sensors and micro energy harvesting via solar power.

To read more of this external content and to leave a comment, go to "In the future," on Embedded.com's sister publication, EE Times Europe.

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