Gene FrantzTI Principal Fellow, Futurist and Business Development Manager, DSP
If you’ve read my blogs in the past, you know I believe there are three interesting vectors in IC technology:
What makes me excited about the perpetual device is that it is the ultimate result of driving the power dissipation vector.
If I put this idea in fishing terms, we’re talking about a brand new fishing hole that no one has fished. To further the idea, we’ve almost depleted the fishing holes of performance and price when compared to power dissipation. (No, I am not predicting the end of performance or price and their impact on future products. I am just noting they are not new fishing holes.)
So enough about fishing. Let’s move on to what is a perpetual device, and why we should care. But before I do move on, I want you to know that TI just published a white paper on the subject, entitled “Approaching the horizon of energy harvesting.”
The Perpetual Device
The perpetual device is not a new concept. I remember hearing a great deal about this from UC Berkeley professor Dr. Kristofer Pister and others in the late 1990s. At that time, I was driving the concept of power dissipation as the next performance vector of IC technology. Smart dust was an obvious “poster child.”
But now it should be easy to define a perpetual device. It is a standalone system that performs one or more tasks without the need of a power source (as we define power sources today). It has three blocks to its system block diagram:
Why do I care?
The better question is “what could I do with a perpetual device that has never been possible before?” The simple answer is “I don’t know.” But, then, that isn’t a very satisfying answer, is it? So, let me share one of my wild ideas for the perpetual device.
Imagine a coffee cup with a chip that operates off heat and tells your smart phone that your coffee is cool or your cup is low. Your phone can then tell the nearest coffee maker to get ready or alert you to make more coffee. Maybe such a cup would only be a gag gift (but not gag the user), like the greeting cards that sing when you open them; but as the cards show, electronics find funny uses, too.
We address a few of these ideas and more in the white paper, but what is exciting are the applications we haven’t thought of - yet. Nothing excites me more than being blindsided by those on the “Lunatic Fringe” who find an out-of-the-box use for the technology we have created. So, read the white paper and start dreaming up those brilliant ideas to open new frontiers and take the perpetual device to the next level.
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