Sensors Expo: Q&A With Eric Biel of PowerCast


As the world prepares for bed every night, millions of people begin a familiar ritual, and no, it doesn’t involve soap and a toothbrush. It’s the loosely-conducted symphony of actions we endure connecting digital wearables to power. This song, however, has an end according to Eric Biel of PowerCast.

telephone operator

Photo Courtesy: Joseph A. Carr

Headphones, hearing aids, watches, Fitbits, Apple Watches, and other fancy wearables, along with all their benefits, also are a bit irritating—at times, making us feel more like a 1960s telephone operator than Iron Man.

In conjunction with the Sensors Expo, we caught up with Eric Biel who is the Principal Electrical Engineer with PowerCast Corp to ask what the future holds for wireless charge tech. Hopefully, it’s not this charge wall.


Q&A With Eric Biel of PowerCast

Minus the logistical, costs, and rollout issues is it possible today to have zero charge wearables?

Eric Biel — Yes, it is feasible to have zero “wired charge” wearables with wireless power maintaining the device’s battery.  However, the use-case needs to be right in order to provide the proper balance of usage versus charge time.

As an example, a fitness tracking shirt that is worn an hour a day and then ends up in a closet or dresser for the remainder of the day is a great use case.  A fitness band that is worn throughout the day but then taken off for recharging overnight is another example.

Eric Biel of PowerCast

Eric Biel. PowerCast


How will OEMs have to change their practices to account for new RF charging tech? What are the projected manufacturing difficulties?

Eric Biel — I think a lot of it is setting the expectations of the consumer using their devices.  Today, most consumers are familiar with the need to plug-in their device when batteries are low.  They then expect a full charge relatively quickly.

After charging, the device may operate for days without needing to be charged again.  With long-range wireless power, devices can be recharging most of the time.  So, instead of having to provide a quick charge from dead to full, the use-case becomes more about always keeping your device topped off.

On the manufacturing side, our RF harvesting chips are extremely consistent in performance.  The biggest manufacturing challenge is on antenna consistency.  We frequently work with OEMs to make sure that the RF harvesting antenna is properly designed because it’s a bit different than a simple RF communication antenna.

Will wireless charge tech be efficient enough, where a full-scale global solution would remove our dependence on batteries or fuel cells?

Eric Biel — That’s definitely a long term goal.  But, obviously, long-range wireless power has specific markets that are the best fit.  As the power requirements of devices continue to be reduced, additional markets will open up.

We currently have products today that don’t even need batteries.  Likewise, there are products that have batteries, and RF is used to augment the lifetime or eliminate the wire altogether.  So we’re happy to help remove the dependence on batteries but are also realistic in that supplementing/augmenting battery life is just as valuable.


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