One of my home screens is partially dedicated to displaying a whole list of links to various informational sites. These links are the source of a great deal of my reading and they make it possible for me to stay up-to-date in the tech field. I also subscribe to a number of free and paid for services that send me summaries of the latest medical innovations, as well as the most recent articles from the top medical journals.
When I was a medical student, this kind of availability of information was a dream. The way that people tended to stay up-to-date was by waiting at the mailbox for the latest physical copy of PC Magazine and JAMA. Of course, libraries tended to carry various journals, and the more prestigious the library, the more journals were available. But still imagine collecting a series of 10 journals from the book stacks, sitting at a library table and flipping through the many pages of the various monthlies, while taking notes on the most important topics to you. These notes were, of course, handwritten and easily misplaced or illegible after a reasonable period of time. And these notes were not searchable.
I think it is pretty clear that I much prefer the modern age version of staying up-to-date. One of the sites I regularly visit is Yahoo Tech. This is a relatively recent site that I thoroughly enjoy both for its content and its design. I think it is actually one of the most informative sites I have ever visited. Today, I came across an article about wireless charging that really made my head spin.
The dream of wireless charging has been around for decades.. Everyone who has been to a conference is well aware of the image of people with laptops and phones desperately searching for an outlet and trying to maximally charge their devices before the next set of lectures begin. You can see a similar site at airports where people will sit themselves down next to an outlet and threaten physical harm to anyone who dares suggest sharing “the force” that comes from the wall.
During the last year, I have become a cult-like member of the Society of “bring your own external charger”. At this point, we have three of these external chargers in my home so that anyone planning to be out for more than a few hours knows that they have a totally mobile solution to a low-power signal from their devices. It is somewhat annoying to have to carry an extra somewhat heavy brick in order to always have ready access to electricity. On the other hand, these mobile charging stations have changed my experience of conferences. Now, during the breaks between lectures, I can spend my time enjoying the coffee and cake as well as focus on networking with the other participants. While having to carry an extra power source is not the most convenient solution, it is definitely a very reasonable one that most people should consider.
Ultimately, almost every mobile device user hopes for a day when the charging of their devices will be continuous and totally subconscious. There are already technologies available today that allow for a mobile device to charge itself via radiofrequency signals that are emitted from specialized transmitters in a room or hallway. Products based on this technology are really just now coming to market. But once these types of products become ubiquitous, and all of the new devices include built-in receivers for wireless power, our world will change.
I think that most people will agree with the fact that Internet-over-cellular has changed our day-to-day lives. People walking on the street can tweet an interesting idea, photograph a special moment and immediately save it to the cloud, Skype to their family abroad and do anything else that you can do when sitting in front of a desktop that is physically plugged into a power source and a network. The success of Internet-everywhere via mobile phones is revolutionizing the world in developing countries. Education, banking, basic communications – all of these become available and incredibly powerful when a mobile phone provides Internet access everywhere and anywhere.
Of course, Internet access everywhere is meaningless if your phone runs out of power after a couple of hours. In 5 to 10 years from now, wireless power will be so cheap to implement, and as such so universally available, that we may very well stop using charging cables. Imagine new phones that do not include a power brick because the phone companies will simply assume that everyone has access to wireless power.
Wireless power will of course also be able to charge a whole variety of wearable devices. Smart buttons on clothes, and even smart fibers that make up our clothes, will be able to draw power from a wireless net that surrounds us 24/7. At the moment, there is tremendous work still being done to improve the efficiency and total storage capability of smaller and smaller batteries. In the near future, it could very well be that these batteries will constantly be charged from the surroundings and always provide a buffer of a few hours [if not much more] for the device they are linked to.
Imagine that we could see all of these electromagnetic waves around us, that power our devices and provide wireless Internet. It would surely be a ballet of marvelous shapes that swell and crash against the digital shore. Just as we bask in the warm rays of our sun, we already are enveloped by modern technology’s signals. In this new reality, you really will never walk alone.
Thanks for listening