Powercast in over-the-air wirelessly powered wearables

Powercast in over-the-air wirelessly powered wearables

Technology News |
By Jean-Pierre Joosting

Powercast will showcase an array of new, batteryless products that are powered by its signature RF-based long-range over-the-air wireless power technology at CES 2022. The company also announced a record year in customer and revenue growth driven by the demand for wireless power – a market expected to reach $25.9 billion by 2027 – and demand for sustainable product designs that keep disposable batteries out of landfills. Powercast helps its partners create environmentally-friendly electronic devices either with rechargeable batteries that can be recharged by RF, or with no batteries at all that can be directly powered by RF.

Wirelessly-powered partner products displayed at CES will include: 3D printed wearables that monitor biomedical signals for at-home diagnosis and athletic training, developed by University of Arizona researchers, and an all-in-one robotic retail price-changing system.

“There are many cool products around the world today already being powered by our over-the-air RF wireless power technology,” said Charles Goetz, CEO of Powercast, “and we’re seeing increased requests as both industrial and consumer markets pursue greener designs that both cut the wires and keep batteries out of landfills.”

University of Arizona researchers chose Powercast’s wireless power technology to keep their new discreet wearables charged up 24/7. Custom made for each person using 3D printing and flexible circuits, the flexible devices can be worn anywhere on the body for several months to enable at-home diagnosis, disease management, or to improve athletic training.

The wearables contain advanced sensors for highly accurate monitoring far beyond the current capabilities of a smart watch. The devices include inertial measurement units and strain sensors that can characterize gait and performance of individual muscle groups, as well as high resolution temperature sensors able to detect subtle changes in body temperature that can be used to characterize performance. The user places a Powercaster wireless charger where they work or sleep, which will recharge their wearable over the air. Researchers expect about two years before availability, and are working towards clinical trials. For more information:

“We chose Powercast’s technology because it is commercially available for purchase and the company supports developers with easy-to-use development tools and engineering know-how,” said Philipp Gutruf, assistant professor of biomedical engineers in the University of Arizona college of engineering.

Powercast is also working with Badger Technologies, a leader in retail automation and a product division of Jabil, to develop a prototype of an all-in-one robotic price-changing system, which will be on display at CES. The Robotic RFID Reader and Batteryless Immortal ESL Autonomous Price Changing System is intended to improve operational efficiency by saving retailers time, money and batteries.

Badger Technologies’ autonomous robots monitor on-shelf product availability, verify prices, and collect data from the retail floor to improve operational efficiencies and shopping experiences. Pairing Powercast’s batteryless electronic shelf labels (ESLs) with Badger Technologies’ autonomous robots now enables the back office to manage real-time electronic updates for the first time, while freeing associates to serve customers instead of changing price tags and eliminating the labor-intensive battery replacement and disposal problems associated with battery-powered ESLs.

Powercast’s immortal ESLs don’t need batteries because the company’s RF-to-direct current (DC) power harvesting technology can harvest enough power from industry-standard RFID readers. In this system, RFID readers installed on the robots send RF power over the air as they roam by the ESLs to Powercast’s receiver chips embedded in the ESLs. These chips convert the RF to DC power to wirelessly update the ESL’s ePaper displays with new prices. Using LiDAR to detect and safely avoid people, the robots can travel a store 24/7 for a completely autonomous price checking and changing system.

“The ability to help retailers implement a batteryless, autonomous price-changing system takes customer service and operational efficiency to the next level,” said William “BJ” Santiago, CEO of Badger Technologies. “Powercast’s rich experience in RF wireless design and Badger’s proven retail automation expertise helped fulfill the vision for this unique solution.”

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