One of our basic beliefs here at Health Tech Insider is that wearables and other devices won’t succeed at scale until they “disappear” into our lives. Too many devices require that users fuss with them: keep them charged, update the software, pair them with smartphones, and more. Compare that with a traditional Timex wristwatch where you only had to change the battery every year or two.
Keeping a wearable charged can be a chore. Improved battery technology and lower power consumption can help by letting a device run longer between charges. Charging every night is less convenient than once a week, or better yet, once a month. But the charging process itself can be a weak link in the process.
That’s why we noticed the announcement from NuCurrent ahead of CES 2022. They partnered with the WHOOP wristband for exercise enthusiasts. NuCurrent’s technology made it possible to eliminate the metal contacts in the recharging station for the device. This gets rid of a potential point of failure, as the contacts can get dirty or corroded. Instead, the charger uses wireless power transfer to reload the batteries.
The NuCurrent system also relies on resonant wireless power instead of the more common inductive approach. This allows the recharging system to work at a greater distance. The company got its start by powering implanted neurostimulators so they needed a process that did not require close proximity to the target device. They now can transfer power at distances up to 12 mm (about half an inch).
Their technology also uses Near Field Communications (NFC) protocols to transfer both power and data at the same time. The WHOOP band’s charger can deliver 1.2 Watts of power while transferring data bidirectionally at 424 Kbps.
Developments like NuCurrent’s wireless power and data transfer can open up new applications for health tech wearables at the same time that they make devices more convenient for their users. The less attention that these things demand from us, the better.