Three More Technologies That Could Profoundly Change Mobile Devices

by Reads (65,969)

This is another installment in a series of articles covering technologies that are still on the drawing board or in the laboratory but have the potential to have a significant impact on handhelds and smartphones at some point in the future.

Solar Power

The factor that is doing the most to keep handhelds from reaching their full potential is batteries. For example, Intel has said it could have released a 1000 MHz XScale processor years ago, but it would require so much power no handheld battery could keep it running for more than a few minutes.

One potential solution for this is solar power. Konarka Technologies is developing nanotechnology-based solar panels that can be woven into the fabric of people’s clothes. These panels will be able to make electricity from any kind of light, not just sunlight, allowing users to be charging their handheld or smartphone almost constantly. Konarka is even hoping to see mobile devices covered in its solar panels so they can be charging even when they are being used.

Konarka’s nanotechnology-based solar panels are still on the drawing board, but some companies aren’t waiting. Earlier this year, SCOTTeVEST announced a jacket with flexible thin-film photovoltaic panels built into its back. It will also have conduits built in so users can easily wire their various gadgets together. The SOLAR SCOTTeVEST will sell for approximately $475 when it becomes available, hopefully before the end of this year.

Thanks to Wired for the tip.

Flexible Displays

Just about everyone would like the screen on their handheld or smartphone to be larger, but very few people are willing to carry around a big, bulky device. Once a mobile device becomes so large that it is inconvenient to carry around, the number of people willing to use it drops dramatically.

This is why some companies are setting their sites on flexible OLED displays. These will allow users to have a device with a comfortably large screen that can be rolled up when not in use to save space.

Concept Design One of these companies, Universal Display Corporation, has come up with a concept design for a PDA that has a flexible OLED display that rolls up inside a case roughly the size of a pen (see picture at left).

Unfortunately, flexible OLEDs are still years away from commercial reality. However, the U.S. military has begun pumping money into research and development for them, which should accelerate the process.

Transmitting Power and Data through the Human Body

Microsoft recent obtained a patent for a method of using a person’s body to network multiple devices together. This would allow them to communicate without wires. Although there are already wireless methods for doing this, Microsoft believes its solution will lead to devices that are smaller than are possible though technologies like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

Much of the size savings comes from the fact that Microsoft’s solution allows not just data but power to be transmitted. This means that, for example, a person could carry a relatively bulky cellphone in an inner pocket but actually communicate through a very slim wrist watch which would only need a speaker and microphone, not even a battery. The power for the watch could come from the cellphone, or a separate battery could power both devices.

The network could extend beyond the body, as well. Two people could exchange files as long as long as they were touching.

Although Microsoft has a patent, it is not known when any actual products using this technology will be available.

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