Soon, sensors and security devices will have a life of their own.
Infinite Power Solutions, which makes thin-film batteries for sensors and other remote computing devices, will begin initial shipments of its products this month. The company has also announced it has raised $13 million in a new funding round. That, along with the $35.7 million raised in 2006, will help it get into volume production. Investors include Polaris Venture Partners, In-Q-Tel (the CIA's venture arm) and an unnamed strategic investor.
The company's thin-film batteries are largely devised to store and provide power for things like temperature sensors, small cameras and other devices that won't be connected to the grid or wires. They will harvest their own power from nearby solar panels, vibrations or complex sheets of materials that can convert differences in ambient temperature into electricity. Germany's EnOcean and Verve, for instance, recently released a set of light switches that don't need wires. When a person flicks a switch, the force that is generated by their fingertip is enough to create an electrical current that sends a wireless signal to a central control unit. That central control unit then flips on the light.
This type of extroverted computing, however, requires batteries because pipes don't always vibrate and the sun doesn't always shine. In October, Infinite signed a deal with Lockheed Martin for integrating the batteries into military equipment.
Other companies, both here and in countries like Israel, are working on similar solutions as Infinite. Like all batteries, these thin-film batteries face challenges when it comes to the number of charge cycles they can endure and the amount of energy they can harvest. Infinite says it has worked extensively on reducing losses in transferring from energy harvesting devices to the battery.