Wearable Power – are we there yet?

Wearable_PowerThe short answer is – NO.

Wearable Power is one of the hot topics for Wearable Electronic research and development. The dream for unlimited power on the go is as old as our relation with portable, personal and now wearable devices.

A few years ago I have spend a considerable amount of time to hunt down wearable power and written articles about the latest, hottest and most promising developments.

My recent search for news on wearable power developments did bring up some new, cool but highly unpractical developments. In theory, those designs might work under best world condition but unfortunately most of the time we live under real world conditions, far away from research labs.

8 years ago, in July 2007 the US Department of Defense teased the wearable technology community with a 1 million US$ prize for the best wearable power system design capable to generate around 2 watts of power. Any and every wearable technology device in the market right now would have no problem to run on such wearable powerhouse.

A year later the million dollar prize was pocketed by a team of DuPont/Smart Fuel Cell but when I searched for followup and further developments …… nothing to be found.

Harvesting energy from and through body movements and transforming it into electrical energy sounds feasible on paper but in reality it turns out to be very limited. Limitations coming from the size of a device or from the low energy conversion output.

Kinetic energy harvesting technologies like gear boxes in shoes or attached to knee or elbow joints are highly unpractical, piezo electric and thermoelectric devices generate very low power in the milliwatt range which is OK to power some sensors but not enough to send the sensor data to a data processing unit.

Solar cells in clothing …. I have discussed the practicality and usefulness of wearable solar cells recently, no need to repeat here again.

Wearable Power, generating electricity through body movement or body heat or surrounding light  while seamlessly integrated into items we wear is still, 8 years after the 1 million US$ challenge by the DoD a field very open to innovators and inventors.

A truly effective and wearable power solution is a gold mine waiting to be claimed.


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