We love gadgets. Thing is, gadgets loves energy — and lots of it, too. So if we know about the problem, why aren’t we doing more to avert a gadget energy crisis?
Let’s face it, our love affair with gadgets is unlikely to wane. If anything, the opposite is true. Proof positive can be found in that land of the rising mobile device, Japan. What happens in Japan invariably offers a glimpse at what we can expect to see over here in Europe and the US soon.
So we can safely assume that mobile devices of all kinds will permeate our lives with all the certainty of a loved ones’ affection. But is our affection with these pocket-sized electronic marvels — and their huge market potential — blinding us to the energy crisis they could well cast upon us, like some dark shadow?
Dark indeed. Ask any Californian about rolling blackouts and you’ll understand the problems we could all face.
This isn’t a scare story. We need to do something to prevent our iPod’s and our Blackberry’s, our mobile phones and our laptops from canceling out all of the good we did by installing energy-saving light bulbs, washing our clothes at lower temperatures and catching the bus or train instead of driving to work.
This isn’t so much about social responsibility, either. That kind of thing is the stand-by generation:
“Britons waste the equivalent of around two power stations’ worth of electricity each year by leaving TV sets and other gadgets on standby.”
Simply switching those devices off when not in use is about changing people’s habits. But the problem with most gadgets is that they’re either have inefficient batteries, or they just get used a lot.
A new kind of power could change things dramatically, which makes use of chemicals such as hydrogen or methanol. In one such example, MTI Micro have developed a very promising fuel cell:
“MTI Micro have been putting their Mobion fuel cell through it’s paces, in testing intended to demonstrate just how much improved the technology is over current Li-Ion power packs. A lab test version of the fuel-cell lasted 2,700 hours of continuous use, with further tests suggesting power degradation of less than 15-percent.”
This kind of technology — along with many other alternative energy technologies — is reaching maturity, and I think it’s time that we had legislation in place to enforce the adoption of such technologies, even if it means doing so at the expense of lucrative patents.
Earlier this month, I discussed some ideas of mine concerning what I propose as being Open Source for technology innovation, a détente if you will:
“Sustainability is no longer enough. Now, we must augment such notions and strategies with innovative, low-cost inventions that can be taken and replicated over and over again, throughout the world.
Their role is to popularize technology free of any need for financial reward, yet fully in the knowledge that their innovative technologies are helping to make the lives of poorer people around the world better.”
The mobile electronics manifesto
There are several alternative energy and energy conveyance technologies right now that I believe should be a mandatory requirement for any gadget:
- Support for piezoelectric recharging — often found in electric charging stations for shavers and toothbrushes and some computer mice. Charging strips could be placed in offices, where staff could place their gadgets to recharge when not in use.
- Inclusion of mechanics for kinetic recharging — found in high-end wristwatches, which derives energy purely from the motion of the wearer, which is appropriate for gadgets, given that they’re often carried in jacket, coat or trouser pockets.
- Use of photovoltaic materials for solar recharging — solar cells have come a long way, and new materials mean the surface of a gadget can now be coated in photovoltaic materials, where they could derive energy from room lighting.
- Standardized batteries — by standardizing battery types (electronic and fuel cell), sizes / shapes, the battery circuitry itself, as well as wall chargers. We’d see a lot less waste and an increase in recycling as well as a possible industry around reusing batteries.
I’m all for individuals or businesses enjoying the financial benefits of their innovations. But if those innovations are of global importance, and the foundations of yet another environmental scare story, short-term commercial successes should be balanced against their social responsibilities…
- TV ‘sleep’ button stands accused
- Alternative energy technologies of the future
- ‘WiTricity’ wireless electricity for all?
- Say hello to Apple PowerShare
- Gadgets ‘threaten energy savings’
- MTI Micro Mobion fuel-cell manages 2,700hrs continuous use
- Boffins’ breakthrough boosts fuel cell output by 50%
- “Open Source” for technology innovation?
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