|-- Crush Your Cubicle by Reuters, From PC World Online, found on or about 10-29-1999|
But such communications technology as this was available in relatively expensive, unreliable, and cumbersome form way back in the late 20th century. So what's the difference now? It works-- and works well-- is cheap-- and already built-into many devices at time of purchase, obviating the need for costly and difficult installation or retrofitting.
But all that relatively high bandwidth wireless signalling is perhaps less impressive than the new energy storage and distribution systems. New super batteries and much more efficient circuitry are combining to lengthen battery life in appliances to many times what it was circa the 1990's, leading to many more household appliances using batteries for primary operation, or as back ups (the technologies supporting these super batteries include tiny fuel cells burning butane or alcohol or hydrogen, among other fuels). This alone would be a boon to consumers-- but there's more. Many batteries no longer require removal from host appliances-- or the insertion of the appliance itself into a special recharging cradle-- ever. No, many appliances will now automatically recharge their batteries whenever there's a reasonable amount of ambient light available at all, indoors or out. Some batteries use light and air humidity to re-generate hydrogen fuel. Others will digest food scraps into alcohol. The end effect is batteries which seem almost immortal in many cases, compared to their predecessors of the 1990's. Aren't there any modern appliances at all which still require some additional effort for recharging purposes? Yes. But mostly these are the most heavy duty appliances you might own, such as power tools, or an electric vehicle. Modern power tools recharge automatically when placed back into their tool boxes-- or laid down relatively near their boxes (wireless proximity recharging). How do battery manufacturers make money this way? In addition to battery and battery fuel sales, they also enjoy a cut of the charges for power feeds some non-standalone batteries use over their lifetimes to recharge. Power generation companies (both electric and natural gas) are able to track the recharging of appliances from an industry grid, and as more batteries often mean more sales of electricity or other fuels, rechargeable battery makers, electrical generating and natural gas companies make a profit this way. In some instances the revenue stream is reversed, with battery makers giving a cut of battery sales to power/fuel generation companies....
This proximity recharging/power distribution also applies to other household and personal accessories. Many floor and table lamps are wirelessly powered via the hidden electrical grid in the walls and ceiling of a home. On-person electronics are wirelessly powered by electrical grids embedded in the seats of automobiles or aircraft. Despite the luxury of these continuous power feeds, many of these constantly fed devices also possess their own small batteries as well, for brief power outages. That is, your house lamps will still work for hours into a power outage at minimum (yes computer users: ALL PCs/NCs are usually shipping with what's basically UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) technology built-in from the factory now). Wireless power feeds are fast becoming ubiquitous now and in the years to come, much as wired internet access has been for the last 15 years. Remarkably, the economic cost of this power is also declining. However, there IS a privacy cost here: for much non-standalone energy usage is tagged with an ID of some sort-- so the government, among others, easily keeps track of your whereabouts (and actions) by your energy usage patterns (at least in nations like USAmerica anyway). Yes, you can choose a higher level of anonymity for your power usage under some circumstances-- but then you must pay higher fees for your energy, or higher prices for your standalone appliances. At least 30-40% of the population give up their energy usage privacy in return for lower energy and product costs (both government agencies and corporations consider tracking citizens' energy usage as valuable information in regards to travel and work habits, and personal preferences; this information can then be used to target them with advertisements, as well as sold to other governments and companies too, among other things).
In cases like modern auto recharging, the auto itself usually robotically plugs itself in at recharge stations or at home, when parked (note that at this time many autos-- including electric-- still use gasoline fuel in many cases; but gasoline usage may be peaking for modern vehicles now).
Another technology somewhat related to all this includes the newly emerging biochemical lighting options. These new devices are genetic hybrids of plants and insect DNA, coupled with a dash of inorganic tech to make for perpetual low to medium light sources which can be used for emergency or low cost long term lighting in many circumstances. They are becoming very popular for certain uses, and among the environmental conscious-- since they typically require no connection to the national power grid.
In some locations biochemical lighting will simply recharge as needed from the local environmental conditions-- but in others, biochem lighting may require additional maintenance, such as an occasional replacement of certain reserve substances-- similar to the refueling required for other types of batteries these days.
-- Battelle/PRNewswire predictions for 2008 (on or about 2-25-98), "Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Environmental Technology Breakthroughs Forecast -- Year 2008", 20 APRIL 1998, and others
Shirt-button size turbine engines by 2000?
Imagine being able to replace our present batteries for camcorders, palmtop computers, cell phones, and other items with more compact, powerful, and doubled lifespan versions which were actually miniature turbine power plants burning butane or some similar fuel.
Some MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) folks say it looks possible the technology will be available commercially by 2000 or thereabouts. And around 2003, the new power packs may be improved sufficiently to go into military gear of various sorts.
Keep in mind that further innovation could scale up the power and useful life capacities of these tiny engines/batteries, while additional micromachine accessories could make it practical to wear entire suits of such motors and refuel them periodically. For example, you might have a high tech closet where micromachine 'moths' congregate on your micromachine-based suit to refuel the tiny tanks of all its motors nightly. Yep, we're talking vastly improved bionic limbs and even full exoskeletons (for soldiers and/or quadraplegics) approaching super-human physical capacities another two or three decades out.
-- "A TINY TURBINE TO POWER YOUR LAPTOP" by Nellie Andreeva, EDITED BY NEIL GROSS, Business Week: July 13, 1998: Developments to Watch