Meet the smartwatch you never have to charge
From laptops and smartphones to smaller devices like wearables, there’s one frustrating issue that affects all our tech: limited battery life. Sure, manufacturers could make the battery slightly bigger, or tinker with power consumption – but one startup has an altogether more radical solution.
For most of us, charging our smartphones is as much a part of our evening routine as brushing our teeth: it’s just something we have to do.
But as our arsenal of battery-hungry devices grows, so does the inconvenience. We can just about cope with our phones and laptops – but add a smartwatch to the mix, and it starts to get a little complicated.
First, you need to find an extra socket and space for the charger – not necessarily easy alongside everything else you’ve got plugged in. And of course, if you forget to charge it, you’ll be without the device on your way to work in the morning.
Compared to traditional wristwatches – with battery life measured in months, if not years – the inconvenience is simply too much for most users, and smartwatch sales have been sluggish...
But tech startup Matrix wants to change all that – and to prove it, they’ve developed a smartwatch you never have to charge.
Introducing the Matrix PowerWatch
The new device is called the PowerWatch, and it was first unveiled to the public at the CES expo back in January, after a successful crowdfunding campaign last year.
There, the gadget won the prestigious ‘Last Gadget Standing’ contest, delighting audiences at the show and online – but, if you’ll pardon the pun, what makes it tick?
Well, simply put, the PowerWatch draws its energy from ‘thermoelectric’ power – generated by your own body heat.
Specifically, the watch contains a module that exploits the “Seebeck effect”: a technique for inducing an electrical current in a semiconductor material which has a temperature difference between two different parts.
In this case, the current is generated by the difference between your body temperature and the device’s ambient temperature. This current is then converted into a three-volt signal: enough to power the PowerWatch’s monochrome screen and all its smartwatch functions.
To conserve power, the screen doesn’t actually function while the watch isn’t being worn, but all your alarms, data and settings are stored in a memory chip – powered by a small battery that’s also recharged by your body heat.
Taken at face value, it’s a fantastic idea – a simple but high-tech solution that solves one of the biggest problems with wearable tech at a stroke. But does it have the features to compete with the Apple Watches of the world?
What can you do with a PowerWatch?
As you can probably imagine, the PowerWatch isn’t quite up to the standards of its battery-powered brethren when it comes to features. This is a low-powered device – and as such, certain abilities are always going to be off limits.
So no, you won’t be making calls, watching videos or responding to messages on the PowerWatch. A device with its kind of hardware could never follow the “phone on your wrist” model pioneered by the Apple Watch and Android Wear devices – but that doesn’t mean it’s useless.
Inside the device’s solid aluminium body are a host of sensors that can track your sleep, record the steps you’ve taken – and, thanks to its heat-harnessing technology, even measure your calorie burn, directly and accurately, based on your body heat.
These are exactly the things a fitness-tracking wearable needs to do, and this host of data can be imported into Apple’s Healthkit and Google’s Fit fitness tracking systems entirely wirelessly – proving that low-power doesn’t necessarily mean low-tech.
In practice, then, the PowerWatch is as useful as any Fitbit – and the self-charging factor gives it a real edge over its competitors. But when can you get it on your wrist?
How to get one
The Matrix PowerWatch hasn’t been released yet – but if you back the project on Indiegogo, you can get one for about £120 after conversion from US dollars.
Of course, you’ll still have to wait for the first watches to be released. Currently, Matrix estimate these will land in October this year – but as always with crowdfunding projects, we’d take that with a pinch of salt.
That said, it’s a product with obvious mass appeal and a fantastic unique selling point, so it’s unlikely to vanish into thin air– especially after its success at CES this year.
With that in mind, we’ll be keeping a close eye out for the PowerWatch here at Geek Squad – and we’ll let you know more as soon as we get our hands on one.
Are you excited about the PowerWatch, or do you prefer your wearables with a bit more juice? Whatever you reckon, let us know in the comments below! And for more articles from our Agents straight to your inbox each month, get your name down below for the Geek Squad newsletter.