Freevolt: power from the air for the Internet of Thing
Electrical engineer Manuel Piñuela has developed Freevolt, a system that uses ambient energy to charge the batteries of IoT devices.
Devices with sensors which measure traffic in the city, smart devices which help companies to save energy, and even speakers which can control an entire household. These connected devices, which make your life easier, work autonomously thanks to the data they gather.
The Internet of Things (IoT) and its technologies have shaped today’s connected world. However, all these devices need cables and batteries to work, something which can sometimes limit their applications. Electrical engineer Manuel Piñuela has developed Freevolt, a new system that harvests energy and charges devices without using wires, with the aim of solving the issue. Freevolt grabs energy bouncing around in the air and then powers devices with it.
How does it work? The Mexican innovator and co-founder at Drayson Technologies harvests the small amounts of energy found in radio waves from radio, TV and WiFi signals. In order to achieve this, he uses an electronic circuit (or rectifier circuit) which turns the alternating current into direct current to then trickle-charge small batteries. In this way, devices can be constantly trickle-charged with ambient energy.
Piñuela started playing around with this idea in 2008 and 2009, while he was working in the oil industry in Texas (US). It was then that he realised how difficult it was to power IoT sensors, as well as to gather data from the process itself. Later on, while he was writing his doctoral thesis on optical and semiconductor devices at London’s Imperial College, UK, he created Freevolt.
Once he had developed this new technology, he started working on others such as Sensyne, a cloud-based platform which controls IoT sensors. Sensyne uses machine learning to control and calibrate those sensors. In this way, it optimises their performance and saves energy costs.
With Freevolt and Sensyne as a point of departure, Manuel has created a new product portfolio which combines IoT and AI to bring about a positive impact in fields such as health and the environment. CleanSpace, for instance, gathers data from more than 31 different countries on the exact level of pollution to which people are being exposed.
Then, it provides that information to organisations in the health sector. At the same time, he has been working on SEND, a system which monitors in-home patient well-being, with the aim of helping doctors with decision-making and facilitating the provision of hospital services.
Piñuela, who has been chosen as one of 2017’s 35 outstanding Innovators under the age of 35 in Latin America by MIT Technology Review in Spanish, is firmly against the idea of implementing technology for technology's sake: “Technology should only be used as a source of prosperity. It should not be about bringing about a positive impact for only a few, but for many.” According to this innovator, advanced technologies should be used for fixing specific problems, be it improving air quality or creating personalised treatments for patients. He says this is the only way of ensuring that technology truly contributes to progress in society.