A silicon valley startup wants you to have one less charger in your life thanks to its exercise-tracking smartwatch design that allows a wearable device to be powered via the user's own body heat. The Matrix PowerWatch uses thermoelectric technology and power-sipping components to create a watch that's always got a steady supply of juice, so long as the wearer has a pulse.
A variety of places have been working on similar technologies for years, including a flashlight charged by body heat and a pocket that can charge your devices the same way, but this looks to be the first thermoelectric smartwatch.
The company says it's gone through several prototypes over the past five years and is now looking to launch its first consumer device via a crowdfunding campaign.
According to Akram Boukai, co-founder and CEO of Matrix, the human body generates enough thermoelectric energy to power an incandescent light bulb when at rest, and enough to power an entire home (roughly 1 kilowatt) during exercise.
The PowerWatch face shows how much power the user has generated along with other staples of fitness trackers like calories burned, steps and sleep data. You can also change the watch face and the company says it's working on "micro-applications" for the PowerWatch. Some other key specs for the watch include water resistance to 50 meters as well as upcoming apps to transfer data to an Android or iOS device and then on to the cloud.
When the watch is removed it powers down into sleep mode until it automatically wakes up when put back on.
It seems there could be a trade-off when it comes to ditching the charger, though. There's no mention of GPS being integrated into the PowerWatch, which would keep it from being competitive with top of the line fitness trackers from the likes of Garmin. In fact, the PowerWatch is built around the Ambiq Apollo chipset, which is designed to be ultra-low power; the presence of a Bluetooth 4.0 low energy radio is also unsurprising.
The PowerWatch also lacks the optical heart-rate monitor seen on many other wearables, but Matrix says its system could actually be better for measuring calories burned.
"Our thermal energy harvesting technology, together with state-of-the-art sensor fusion algorithms, enables very accurate calorie counting," says Douglas Tham, co-founder and CTO of Matrix.
The PowerWatch could be just the first attempt at using heat from the body or other sources to power devices.
"Matrix's thermoelectric platform technology now makes it possible to power a wide range of products without the need for replaceable batteries or an external power source," says Boukai.
An Indiegogo campaign for the PowerWatch has very quickly raised its $100,000 goal with two months still to go. Early backers can get in line for the Matrix watch for as little as $100 – the PowerWatch is expected to retail for $170. As always though, backer beware when it comes to crowdfunding campaigns like this one with little-known startups.
Matrix says it hopes to ship the watch to those that pre-order through the campaign in July of 2017. For more, check out the promotional video below.