Thursday, January 19, 2012

Power to the ppl

It's been several months since I was able to get back into blogging.  But the gratifying part of my time off has been the number of topics that I've queued up to write about!

It is usually in the 1st quarter (Jan/Feb) where many new announcements are made about technology.  There are events put on by Apple, Dell, HP, and even the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).  I'm continually amazed at how fast technology changes.  Every year we are introduced to a whole new slate of technologies.  Some are completely new and many others are an improvement over some type of previous iteration.  One area where product development has just exploded (if you count cell phones out) is the high definition television.  I remember 10 years or so ago I bought a monstrous 120 lb projection TV from Mitsubishi that was "HD Ready".  Since then we have seen technologies go from plasma, to DLP, to LCD, to LED-LCD.  Apparently now I can buy a 55" OLED (organic LED) television that is only 4cm thick.  Innovation is a great thing indeed.

Now, tying back to the title of this blog, one of the few aspects of technology development that has not changed in over 100 years is power.  No matter what you own today, in order for it to work it must either (a) be plugged into an outlet/power source or (b) run from a battery.  Everyone can see how plugging a device into a power source works.  Batteries may be a little more mysterious because they are not always visible.  But basically, batteries are large, heavy, chemically-driven electron exchange "bricks".  They are what drive the weight and size of smart phones, computers, and even hybrid cars and have not fundamentally changed in over a century.

What we need now is a technology that derives energy from some other medium besides combustion or ion-exchange sources.  It must be small, portable, and safe.  Several of the ideas that I've heard bandied about include "gravitics" (tapping into Earth's gravitational field), fuel cells (remember Terminator 3?), anti-matter, and even something called "Zero Point Energy".  Any of these could work if for no other reason than their capacity to supply energy is so much more vast than anything we have today.

I'm saying it here in this blog:  Whoever it is that develops a new, smaller, more capable power source technology is going to become the richest person in the world.  Battery technology is THE limiting factor in electronics innovation and probably even the advancement of all humankind.  The day we move away from chemical batteries to the "next big thing" will mark the beginning of a technological revolution that will dwarf the rise of the Internet.