January 3, 2022
Powercast, which develops radio frequency (RF) wireless power technologies, has announced it will showcase an array of new batteryless products at CES 2022 that feature its RF long-range over-the-air wireless power technology. One of these applications includes an all-in-one robotic price-changing system for retailers.
The company announced a record year in customer and revenue growth driven by the demand for wireless power, which it says will reach a $25.9 billion market by 2027, as well as demand for sustainable product designs that keep disposable batteries out of landfills. Powercast said it helps partners create environmentally friendly electronic devices either with rechargeable batteries that can be recharged by RF, or with no batteries at all that can be directly powered by RF.
“There are many cool products around the world today already being powered by our over-the-air RF wireless power technology,” said Charles Goetz, CEO of Powercast, “and we’re seeing increased requests as both industrial and consumer markets pursue greener designs that both cut the wires and keep batteries out of landfills.”
For the retail application, Powercast is working with Badger Technologies to develop a prototype of an all-in-one robotic price-changing system. The Robotic RFID Reader and Batteryless Immortal ESL (electronic shelf labeling) Autonomous Price Changing System is intended to improve operational efficiency by saving retailers time, money, and batteries.
Badger’s autonomous robots monitor on-shelf product availability, verify prices, and collect data from the retail floor. Pairing Powercast’s batteryless ESLs with the robots enables a back office to manage real-time electronic updates for the first time, while freeing associates to serve customers instead of changing price tags, and eliminating the labor-intensive battery replacement and disposal problems associated with battery-powered ESLs, Powercast said.
The company said its ESLs don’t need batteries because its RF-to-direct current (DC) power harvesting technology can harvest enough power from industry-standard RFID readers. In this example, RFID readers installed on the robots send RF power over the air as they roam by the ESLs to Powercast’s receiver chips embedded in the ESLs. These chips then convert the RF-to-DC power to wirelessly update the ePaper displays with new prices. Using lidar to detect and safely avoid people, the robots can travel a store 24/7 for a completely autonomous price checking and changing system.
“The ability to help retailers implement a batteryless, autonomous price-changing system takes customer service and operational efficiency to the next level,” said William “BJ” Santiago, CEO of Badger Technologies. “Powercast’s rich experience in RF wireless design and Badger’s proven retail automation expertise helped fulfill the vision for this unique solution.”
Powercast said it will also display an application of discrete wearables for at-home medical monitoring, diagnosis and athletic training, developed by researchers from the University of Arizona. Custom made for each person using 3D printing and flexible circuits, the devices can be worn anywhere on the body for several months to enable at-home diagnosis, disease management, or to improve athletic training. The devices include inertial measurement units and strain sensors that can characterize gait and performance of individual muscle groups, as well as high-resolution temperature sensors to detect subtle changes in body temperature. The user places a Powercast wireless charger where they work or sleep, which can recharge the wearable over the air. Researchers said they expect about two years before availability of the wearables, and are working towards clinical trials. More details are available here.
Additional information regarding Powercast at CES 2022 can be found here.