In no way, shape, or form would I ever claim to be an expert scientist—my high school science teachers would surely support that statement. But one scientific rule or theory that I do understand is that we as humans produce heat, and heat begets energy, and that energy often goes wasted. And it’s with that fact in mind that Matrix Industries developed a technology that can in no simple terms be defined as paradigm-shifting. The first implementation of their thermoelectric power generator came to life in the PowerWatch brand.
Explained technically, that thermoelectric generator requires a hot and cold side in order to operate effectively. The hot side is the circular aluminum plate on the back of the watch, which pulls the user's body heat, and the cold side is the entire metal bezel and body of the watch. The two are separated by a layer of isolating thermoplastic. The generator then "harvests" the heat that flows from the hot to cold side and converts it into the energy required to power the watch. Think, Qi wireless charging where your body is the power mat.
Here at IFA 2019, in the IFA NEXT exhibition, PowerWatch released their Series 2 product, which features a base model alongside Premium and Luxe options. Per PowerWatch, there’s nothing technologically different between the models, only that they’re housed in a more premium casing as you move up the chain.
We’ll dive into the specs in a moment. But where we really need to start with this product is that aforementioned thermoelectric charging feature. The watch quite literally runs on the wearer’s body heat, meaning you never have to attach it to a charger. In theory, you could wear this watch for the rest of your life without ever having to take it off to power up. The battery system is also supported by a solar panel that is embedded in a ring around the face of the watch. Together, they make the PowerWatch 2 Series one of the most intriguing and longest-lasting smartwatches you’ll come across.
The PowerWatch 2 is absolutely packed with features you’d expect in a smart watch today. There’s heart rate monitoring, GPS location tracking, a calorie counter, sleep monitoring, activity tracking, smart push notifications right to your wrist, it’s water resistant down to 200m, and more.
While those are some power-hungry types of features, the watch makes up for it by sporting a full color display that is not OLED. So, while you won’t have the brightest interface to work with, the trade off is never having to charge the watch via a usb cable or magnetic charger—ever.
Of course, the thermoelectric charging raises a lot of questions, which I tried to ask in my time with the Matrix Industries/PowerWatch team at IFA 2019. They, rightfully so, weren’t willing to get into specifics, but it’s easy to imagine future applications of the technology—he first, and most obvious one being smartphones. How often do we find ourselves walking around with a smartphone in our pocket or strapped in a sports band to our upper arms? That close contact—while not exactly skin on product like the PowerWatch—could provide the type of energy boost to keep our devices charging throughout the day while we’re not using them.
Batteries permeate this industry and allow the products we use to function as they should. They need power. And that need for constant connectivity lead to the rise of an entire subsegment of out industry dedicated to providing those little boosts in battery life when we need them, and they come in all shapes and sizes—battery backs, smartphone charging cases, portable Qi chargers, and more.
So, any advancement in tech that can keep a product charged at all times? With no need to ever plug it in? While still providing a nearly complete feature set? Yea. I can absolutely get on board with that.