Wearable devices have been getting smaller and more ubiquitous these past few years, but many share one Achilles heel: power. Whether that power comes through charging or replacement batteries doesn’t matter — Fitbits and smartwatches alike are little more than paperweights when they run out of juice.
Enter the Matrix PowerWatch, which its creators claim can count steps and calories burned, monitor sleep, and tell the time — all while being powered by your body heat.
So how does it work? A thermoelectric generator circuit uses the temperature difference between the watch’s two sides to generator power. A person’s regular body heat warms one side, while air exposure provides a cooler temperature reading to the other side. The watch goes into sleep mode when it’s not being worn, using an internal battery to keep the correct time and date.
Matrix launched an Indiegogo campaign this week for anyone interested in purchasing a PowerWatch for $129 USD, with those devices expected to ship in 2017. However, selling the PowerWatch itself is not the company’s ultimate goal. The wearable is more of a proof-of-concept, showcasing thermoelectric technology to device makers.
“We see ourselves as a thermal energy harvesting company,” Matrix’s head of engineering Anne Ruminski told Spectrum. “We would like to see the technology be applied to other wearables, medical devices, and smart sensors,” She believes the company’s tech would be ideal for applications such as pacemakers, so if all goes according to their plan, a new way of powering the devices that keep us going could be on the horizon.