One Big Idea by Prabhakar Mundkur: The future of gadgets – a world without cords

19 Feb,2013

By Prabhakar Mundkur, Executive Director, Percept / H


When the Russians invented the Sputnik in 1957 everyone thought this was an innovation in space technology with military applications. As it turned out in retrospect, it was an innovation for communications. It became the first satellite in space, just the size of a basketball, which weighed about 183 pounds, and took 98 minutes to orbit the earth in its elliptical orbit.


The idea of wireless itself is not new. Remember your first radio transistor? Radio waves transmit music, conversations, pictures and data through the air over millions of kilometers. Radio waves are invisible and completely undetectable by humans. Whether we are talking about a cellphone, a cordless phone or a thousand other technologies all of them use radio waves to communicate. Even things like radar and microwave ovens depend on radio waves. So is this the end of where wireless can take us?


All of us have a few dusty power cord tangles around our home. Behind the TV, behind the audio system, behind our desktops… How often have you followed that one particular wire through its various snarls right to the power outlet hoping you are going to pull out the right plug? So I guess you know what I’m getting at. What if you could use those same radio waves that transmit to your cellphone, TV, and wi-fi, to transmit power to your devices? The idea is futuristic but it is not entirely new. The electric toothbrush is a first step in this direction. The toothbrush’s daily exposure to water makes it potentially dangerous were it to charge through a ordinary power charger. Electric toothbrushes recharge through inductive coupling, which again is not new.


So imagine a world without power cords. Now add that to your existing digital world of TV, computers, cellphones, iPods, iPads, Facebook, Twitter and other media.
The future of the internet and internet-based technologies may well be cutting our umbilical cord with the power outlet!


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