It’s amazing how a few bright ideas can shift the world! Two breakthroughs have crept up on us and swept the globe – and cut the cost of connectivity and power supply to virtually zero – opening new markets across the economic spectrum.
Engineering professor Harald Haas introduced us to ‘Li-Fi’ in 2011, based on a revolutionary use of mathematics to allow LED lights to deliver data, even as they are being used to emit light. It’s turned LEDs for lighting, advertising and signage into a broadband delivery system more ubiquitous than Wi-Fi ever was.
Electricity distributors and mobile phone companies teamed up to link the electrical grid and office/home networks into an integrated mesh network – providing capacity way beyond the constraints of the wireless spectrum, by opening up the entire visible spectrum of light to data transmission.
It was also in 2011 that engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison invented a new technology to power mobile devices from the energy created by simply walking around.
The technical term ‘reverse electro-wetting’ never took off, and the marketplace has come to know it as ‘InStep’ technology – converting mechanical energy from motion into electricity.
It took years to perfect this application of nanotechnology, but In-Step is now the de facto standard for powering all mobile devices; even shoes are going high-tech and the battery industry has been decimated. Those Baby Boomers with long memories may remember the days when a similar, but more basic, approach was applied to wrist-watches.
“This powerfully demonstrates at least two of the principles we have been debating for years,” says FutureWorld Chairman Emeritus Wolfgang Grulke, “that shifts in one industry can dramatically impact others. And secondly, you have took beyond your own industry to see your future competitors!
“Who would have dreamt that nanotech would reinvent the shoe industry, that we would be generating our own personal power, or that street lights would revolutionize broadband!”