My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Why Meredith Perry's Ubeam's Wireless Charging Future is a Good Vibration

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Why Meredith Perry's Ubeam's Wireless Charging Future is a Good Vibration

“If wireless power is everywhere, then the size of your battery can shrink because it’s always Charging. You’ll never need a cord again, and you won’t need international Charging adapters,”

Ubeam CEO Meredith Perry in an interview with the New York Times in August 2014

Inductive Charging of smartphones may seem a cool concept, but it isn’t true Wireless Charging or Wireless Power Transfer. So what if a way existed to wirelessly charge your electronic gadgets?

A company called Ubeam owned by CEO Meredith Perry is developing the idea of using Ultrasonic Power Transfer recently received some Series A Venture Capital Funding and managed to raise some US$10 million as stated in the article “uBeam Just Raised $10 Million So You Can Charge Your Phone While Walking Around Your House”, published OCT. 31, 2014, 10:27 AM by MAYA KOSOFF, Business Insider


Up until this latest round of funding, Ubeam had raised a total of US$11.8 million. If all goes well, the Ubeam Founder and CEO Meredith Perry expects to have her first products by 2016. This suggests that she might make a showing at CES 2015 to showcase her product prototype.

Already, her gadget is causing quite a stir in Silicon Valley, attracting admirers and illogical haters alike, as this product is set to be a major disruptor as it relates to recharging gadgets as noted in the article “A Startup That Raised $10 Million For Charging Gadgets Through Sound Has Sparked A Giant Debate In Silicon Valley”, published NOV. 2, 2014, 4:23 PM by JULIE BORT, Business Insider.

That Series A Venture Capital Funding included some of the Tech Industry’s heavy-hitters as noted in the article “uBeam Nabs $10 Million In Funding From Upfront Ventures To Make Wireless Charging A Reality”, published Oct 30, 2014 by Ryan Lawler, TechCrunch keen to stake their claim on developing this device:

1.      Andreessen Horowitz
2.      CrunchFund 
3.      Founders Fund
4.      Ludlow Ventures
5.      Mark Cuban
6.      Shawn Fanning
7.      Troy Carter
8.      Upfront Ventures
9.      Yahoo's Marissa Mayer
10.  Zappos' Tony Hsieh

Her Ultrasonic Power Transfer device was originally a project that made its debut at an All Things Digital D9 Conference held in June 2011 by then University of Pennsylvania graduates Meredith Perry and Nora Dweck as explained in my blog article entitled “uBeam's Perry & Dweck Ultrasonic Power Transfer - Rafe Needleman's Hidden Village of Sound.

For me personally, this brings back fond memories, as it’s been three (3) long years in the wilderness. But her device, which I had said made her one of Nikola Tesla’s protoje, is finally getting the recognition and financial backing it deserves.

So how did Ubeam originally get started? The story and the person behind the Gadget came from humble beginnings at the University of Pennslyvania.

Ubeam’s Origins - University of Pennsylvania graduates Meredith Perry and Nora Dweck

Her idea is very simple and cleverly ingenious as described in the article “UBeam Investors Plug In $10 Million to Get Rid of Device Chargers”, published Oct 30, 2014 5:56 pm ET by DEBORAH GAGE, Venture Capital Dispatch, Wall Street Journal.

The Ultrasonic Power Transfer was designed after she realized that her Laptop Battery kept dying and she had to constantly walk with a charger to keep it charged.

Story of my Laptop’s life!

That made her take a look at the Laptop Charger and wonder why it even needed a cord to get power to charger her laptop in the first place as noted in the article “Young Entrepreneur Has A Better Idea. Now What?”, published AUGUST 23, 2011 8:30 AM ET by Yuki Noguchi, NPR.  Especially when most classrooms only have one electrical outlet and sometimes multiple students want to charge their laptops that probably had the same bad battery as she did.

She and her friend Perry Dweck, both graduates of the University of Pennsylvania had entered a university contest in 2011, the PennVention, with their solution: the Ultrasonic Power Transfer invention.

She won the PennVention competition for her invention and was soon contacted by Technology Journalist Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, who told her that she could build a working prototype, she could enter it at the All Things Digital D9 Conference.

With less than a month to go, she built a prototype only to realize that she needed to enter as a company. So she filed patents for her invention and formally registered for a company, appropriately titling it with the name Ubeam.

She then entered the All Things Digital D9 Conference and at which point CNET News Editor, Rafe Needleman did an article on her invention.

I then read that article, which is how I ended up doing my long-winded blog post back in 2011 on her unique idea of an Ultrasonic Power Transfer device for charging Electronic devices as stated in my blog article entitled uBeam's Perry & Dweck Ultrasonic Power Transfer - Rafe Needleman's Hidden Village of Sound”.

I also went further, suggesting a change of power source from just being purely electrical to using the ambient sound as a source of Power, as Noise, like Waste Heat from a Process Plant, can be recycled into Energy to power devices.

So how does Ultrasonic Power Transfer work? It’s all about getting some good vibrations!

Ubeam’s Ultrasonic Power Transfer – Good Vibrations versus Magnetic Personalities

It involves using Ultrasonic Frequencies just above human hearing to transfer power from a Transmitter to devices fitted with a mini Receiver, be it built into the device or in the form of a case. Indeed, these are the same Ultrasonic Frequencies used in Ultrasound Imaging technologies, from Oil Pipe Line, Tank Welding Inspection in Engineering to Pre-Natal Inspections in Hospitals i.e. babies in the womb born by mammalian animals such as humans, Cats and Dogs.

Ubeam CEO Meredith Perry explains it best in an interview with Business Insider, quote: “We've developed a powerful and intelligent ultrasonic transmitter that beams high intensity Ultrasonic through the air. The Ultrasonic in the air then hits a Receiver, which can be in the shape of a case around an electronic device or can be embedded within a device. The Receiver vibrates in response to the sound at a frequency too fast for people to feel, and then converts that vibration into electrical power”.

Based on her explanation, the Receiver, basically a transducer, resonates at Ultrasonic frequencies and converts the vibration into Energy that then trickle charges the device. Effectively, you’d never need to be constantly turning to your charger to recharge your smartphone or Tablet; it would always be receiving power from an Ultrasonic Power Transfer device in the room!

Best of all the Technology is safe, as sound waves do not come with an associated health risk of EM (Electro Magnetic) Radiation such as Microwaves or even rotating Magnetic Fields associated with their competition in Magnetic Power Transfer Technology arena.

The main limitations of the Transmitter-Receiver setup of the Ultrasonic Power Transfer Device that Ubeam is developing are obvious:

1.      It can't transmit power beyond 1 meter
2.      It can't transit power through walls

The distance limitation isn't really an issue, being as most Smartphone and Tablet user utilize chargers that have cords that are about 1 meter in length, making Ubeam's device a perfect replacement. It’s tolerable, really!

The other problem is a bit harder to escape, as it implies that if you want to trickle charge items in different rooms, you'd have to have multiple Transmitters built into your wall sockets.

By comparison technologies like DCRS (Dipole Coil Resonant System) developed by a team at KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) in April 2014 as detailed in my blog article entitled KAIST developes DCRS, a long-range Wireless Charging Technology - IEC Charger Standards now obsolete as KAIST makes an Earth based Magnetar” use high frequency Magnetic fields that can work over distance as far away as five (5) meters.

Good to note that the DCRS is a significant improvement on the WiTricity Design for Wireless Power Transfer developed by researchers at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) back in 2007.

Also Magnetic Power Transfer has the same limitations as Ultrasonic Power Transfer, being as our houses are constructed with concrete and Steel, which would absorb most of the Magnetic Field Strength.  I suspect the same may be true in most high rise buildings in the US of A made of Steel and Cement as well as in as in Jamaica.

Clearly both Ubeam’s Ultrasonic Power Transfer and Magnetic Power Transfer, their main competition, have, ironically, the same limitation a Wi-Fi, necessitating that the focus on making the Transmitter and Receiver Technology as low-cost and ubiquitous as possible.

So far, I’ve heard of no practical products using Magnetic Power Transfer as I call it, save for the Aura Wireless Christmas Lighting System as detailed in my blog article entitled Aura Wireless Christmas Lighting System Kickstarter - Wireless Power Transfer for Christmas Tree Lights in 2015 needs to get Kid-Friendly design”. This is actually a kickstarter for a set glass Christmas ornaments powered by the same Magnetic Power Transfer Technology that is slated to come out in October 2015.

So with most of the significant product competition coming from this Magnetic Power Transfer kickstarter, it’s time that Ubeam got more VC funding, hence the Series A Venture Capital Funding.

Meredith Perry and the Venture Capitalists - A truly Wireless Charging Future, be it Magnetic of Ultrasonic

Technical stuff aside, it’s after graduating from University of Pennsylvania that her story really began.

She soon scored big with some initial seed Capital funding in 2012 worth some US$1.7 million as apparently, despite being just an invention made out of frustration, she had a vested interest in going further with her product.

Interestingly, one of the same persons involved in the current US$10 million Series A Venture Capital Funding round were involved in her Seed Funding round back then:

1.      Ken Seiff
2.      Yahoo's Marissa Mayer
3.      Ellen Levy
4.      Zappos' Tony Hsieh
5.      CrunchFund
6.      Andreessen Horowitz

After going quiet for almost two (2) years since then, she suddenly popped back on the Technology radar with updated information for her first prototype of the Ultrasonic  Power Transfer device as stated in the article “Wireless Charging Is One Step Closer To Being Reality”, published AUG. 6, 2014, 11:26 AM by REBECCA BORISON, Business Insider, which might debut at CES 2015.

Now two months on in October 2014 after completing a Series A Venture Capital Funding round, they're slowly marching towards a future where Wireless Power Transfer, be it via Ultrasonic or High frequency Magnetic field from her competition, is a possibility. Upfront Ventures Partner Mark Suster and SoundHound Inc. Vice President Katie McMahon are now a part of Ubeam's Board of Directors.

Their long term plans are quite clear for the next two (2) years from now: to make Ubeam as ubiquitous as Wi-Fi, to quote CEO Meredith Perry: “We’re going to sell directly to consumers, and we’ll sell them to restaurant chains and hotels — we are going to saturate the market with uBeam transmitters. In addition to your local coffee shop saying it has free Wi-Fi, it will also say it has free uBeam.”

This is a Wireless Power future worth looking forward to and writing about as well.

The Laptop makers are probably seeing red, as this may mean the end of chargers as we know it, even beating the Swiss Technical Standards Body IEC to the punch as noted in my blog article entitled Swiss Technical Standards Body IEC developing Universal Laptop Charger specs for early 2014 - Post-Analog Power Cord and Power Adaptor Era should focus on Waste Energy Recycling”.

Dear reader, its all about Good Vibrations with a Magnetic Personality.

Ubeam

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