Truly Wearable Tech: Clothes with Integrated Technology

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You have your phone, your tablet, your computer of choice, and countless other high-tech gadgets, but what innovative convenience comes next? The ability to wear your gadgetry is no longer a sci-fi dream, thanks to a dazzling array of concepts and ready-to-wear products that give you tech savvy style. These pieces are fully functional and serve a purpose as well as looking phenomenal, so you need all of them in your wardrobe.

Smart Underwear for Health and Safety

Image via Flickr by Maria Ly

You can already find several underwear options designed to keep you healthy. Your mother’s insistence to always wear clean underwear takes on new importance when you consider the idea of a smart bra, for instance. Take your pick because there are several on the market and in the concept phase. The Numatrex bra is a sports bra with electrodes and electronic modules to monitor your heart rate. It sends the information to a corresponding watch, which makes the technology ideal for athletes, people who exercise, and patients.

There’s also technologically advanced underwear. Technically the technology works for clothes in general, but your underwear is close to your skin, which makes biosensors even more accurate. The idea is to use products like this on patients, so healthcare professionals can check their health even when they leave the hospital.

Better Form with Smart Socks

Clothing monitors are increasingly popular as more people try to exercise. Running has recently seen a particular surge, so any product that improves your running ability is sure to make a splash. Consider smart socks, which can track your steps, the distance you run, and your speed.

Then there are companies such as Heapsylon, which are working on socks that will also analyze your form, the way you run, and even your weight distribution, whether you’re in motion or standing still. That has potential for reducing injuries, and even improving posture.

Clothing with Affection

Sometimes you just need a hug. Would you believe that there’s some tech for that? Several companies market jackets or shirts that will hug you. These items are perfect for certain kinds of problems, from anxiety and fear to emotional and behavioral problems. However, hugs are simply healthy. You feel better after a hug.

Some of the newer technologies are even more advanced. Using an app, you can control your own hugs, or a parent or guardian can do so for a child. You can copy the exact pressure and form of your own hug and program it for someone you love—or someone can recreate their hug for you.

Outfits to Fit Your Mood

You may dress to fit your mood, but how would you like your outfit to broadcast your emotions? There are shirts that act as an ECG, while monitoring your breathing, your activities, and even your emotive stages. It does this steadily, so you can use an app to see the information at the end of the day. In theory, you can pinpoint your exact triggers for getting angry, crying, laughing, getting tired, or overeating.

The things you wear will soon become more important than ever, and it won’t have anything to do with fashion. Which of these would you want to buy?

 

The Internet of Things: The Future of Devices Communicating with Each Other

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For years we’ve had access to wireless capabilities that allow us to seamlessly exchange files and share data across devices. But the Internet of Things is a bit more complicated (and convenient) than that. As technology evolves, we’re entering a world that’s more widely integrated with the Internet of Things, and we’re quickly becoming better at device communication.

What is the Internet of Things?

Image via Flickr by FindYourSearch

By definition, the Internet of Things is a scenario where objects transfer data without components of human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. Instead, the Internet of Things relies mostly on machine-to-machine interaction and is based in the automatic transfer of data.

This may include anything from digital thermometers to heart monitors. One device or component collects the data and automatically delivers that information to the receiving component, which responds without humans having to do anything manually.

Where Are We Now?

While the Internet of Things is growing, it’s not a new concept. The term was coined back in 1999, but it had already been around for some time. At that point, about the coolest Internet gadget was a soda machine that automatically reported whether there were products still inside. Clearly we’ve come a long way. Some examples of tech we have today that work this way include:

  • Health monitors that can send information about heart rate, steps taken, and sleep patterns to a program or app.
  • Tire pressure monitors that sense and alert drivers when pressure is low.
  • Smart thermostats that sense the temperature or your return from work and adjust accordingly.

There are obviously tons of other gadgets aside from these listed, but have we reached our full potential yet? Certainly not.

Where Are We Headed?

We’re already in the middle of a revolution. The new wave of technology is here, but most of us haven’t adopted it yet. Don’t worry. We will. The Internet of Things is changing the way we perform day-to-day activities. If recent products are any indication, soon your sprinklers will turn on in response to moisture sensors, your coffee will begin brewing upon your approach, and your refrigerator and cupboards will automatically update your grocery list. Heck, you may already use these devices.

While we’re not at a point where the majority of the population uses these smart devices, it will soon become a norm much like how television and cell phones are in nearly every home in the country. By 2020, there will be 26 billion connected devices worldwide, says research firm Gartner as reported by The Guardian.

How Will This Impact Us?

While we’ve mostly discussed how this concept is changing the home, the Internet of Things offers more benefits than that. The business sector is already creating a business of the future with smart devices that cut down on labor. Factory machines automatically adjust to perform at their most efficient level, virtual assistants save time and money, and smart medical programs allow doctors to work quicker without sacrificing quality care. More businesses are integrating these technologies that they’ll soon become the norm.

The Internet of Things is not a new concept, but it is growing at a fast rate that soon we may know nothing but smart communication.

 

The Future of Travel: 4 Innovations Making Travel Easier

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It doesn’t matter if you travel for business, often give in to wanderlust, or simply take the occasional vacation, you still love the idea of easy travel, don’t you? With a slew of technological innovations aimed toward travelers, you’ll no longer look at your rolling suitcase as the coolest trend you’ve ever tried. It goes so much further than that, with travel tech geared toward getting you there and back again fast, safe, and with all your luggage intact.

Tempting Tech-Driven Luggage

Image via Flickr by Robert S. Donovan

Rolling luggage is awesome, but travelers are ready for something more. Both luggage suppliers and tech companies are now making “more” a reality by offering smart luggage. It’s only fair to have a smart suitcase that goes along with your smartphone.

Some bags are already on the market, while others are still in the planning stages. For example, there’s a Powerbag briefcase that has a battery built into it, which will allow you to charge your phone, tablet, MP3 player, and other gadgets as you go. Some bags come with QR apps designed to let you check-in easily, plus you can trace them — which may well keep your luggage from disappearing. Other bags will come with their own compression technology, allowing you to pack more in a smaller space.

If all that sounds cool, you’ll love this. There’s a new concept that hopefully makes it to production. Hop! The Following Suitcase will do just what it promises: follow you around — while hopping. It follows the signals coming from your smartphone.

An App for Everything

You already know that there are apps for finding the best airfare and accommodations, comparing prices, and even booking your entire vacation. They all have their strong points. However, they only target a small corner of the market, especially compared to what’s on the horizon.

For instance, SeatGuru lets you pick your seat. You can see the layout of the plane in real-time via a high-resolution map of the cabin. It does double-duty by also letting you compare prices. With an app like Viator, you can even reserve your seats on any tours or attractions, which will allow you to support the local economy in whatever city you’re visiting.

Super Hypersonic Speed

How would you like to travel at hypersonic speed? Forget the red-eye, because a hypersonic jet will get you where you need to go in the blink of an eye. Seriously, you can travel from New York to London in just an hour.

The technology already exists, although it’s mainly used for military flying. However, the Zero Emission High Speed Transportation, or ZEHST, is in the works courtesy of European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company. The company also owns Airbus, so it knows about flying. The jet will fly the friendly skies by 2050 — but given the technology and the speed of today’s innovations, you may not have to wait three decades.

Wi-Fi in the Sky as You Fly

Image via Flickr by Brent Payne

It’s a small thing unless you’re addicted to the Internet — isn’t everyone? Soon you won’t have to book an international flight to get Wi-Fi. Domestic flights will begin offering it as the year progresses, although you’ll still have to pay for the privilege.

What travel innovation do you most want to try?

 

The Evolution of the USB Cable: Meet the Next Big Thing

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The universal serial bus (USB) is the most ubiquitous connector type computers use. Just about everything, from computer mice and keyboards to printers and other external devices, uses a USB plug. The standard is about to get a major update.

A Brief History of the USB Device

Before the universal serial bus, connecting anything to a computer was a nightmare. Each device had its own connector type. This made it very hard for computer manufacturers and peripheral developers alike to ensure cross-compatibility between devices. A group of computer manufacturers got together to form the USB-IF, with the goal of developing a universal standard connector for computers and peripherals.

Members include most of the major computer manufacturers, including Hewlett-Packard and Dell. The USB-IF released the USB plug and cable in 1995. Since then, the standard has been revised four times, with each revision bringing faster speeds and better interoperability. The last revision occurred in 2008, when USB 3.0 came out.

Development and Release

Although USB cables have made connections between devices easier, the process can be frustratingly awkward. If you’ve ever fumbled around trying to find the upside of a USB cable, then you know the feeling. The USB-IF has come up with a new USB interface that’ll make this problem a thing of the past.

It presented the new interface and cable — USB type C — at the Intel Developers’ Conference in Shenzhen, China this April. Unlike the USB connectors in use, the Type C connector is vertically symmetrical and is the same at either end. It has no “correct” orientation. In addition, it makes an audible click when it’s correctly seated. USB-IF expects to release the type C connector in July 2014.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The Type C connector does away with two of the worst frustrations with current cables, namely the frustrating dance of getting it oriented correctly and confirming that it’s seated properly. Another plus is that its smaller size will allow for slimmer devices. As for disadvantages, the major one is that it won’t be backward compatible. You’ll only be able to benefit from Type C if you buy a new device that uses it. A more minor one is that the smaller size will make it easier to lose.

Devices Using Type C

Expect Type C on most devices made after the summer of 2014. Google’s Nexus 6 and Samsung’s Note 4 are already slated to feature it. Although Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is already out, newer builds will feature the new standard. In addition to mobile applications, a new generation of slimmer laptops will be possible because of smaller USB ports. Read more about devices and Type C here.

On the whole, the USB Type C plug is a positive development. While losing backward compatibility is regrettable, the cable’s symmetry is a step forward, and the smaller size will allow computer and mobile device manufacturers to build slimmer and lighter components. The earliest devices to take advantage of the new system will be mobile devices like phones and tablets, but laptop and desktop computer manufacturers will soon follow.

Tesla to Today: Wireless Power Becomes a Reality

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Imagine not needing power cords and wires to use household appliances, overhead light fixtures, and other devices that require a constant flow of electricity. It might sound like a cutting-edge idea, but scientists in the 1800s were investigating the idea of wireless electricity. Check out the evolution of this amazing technology and consider the potential advantages it offers people in the present.

The Early Innovators

Image via Flickr by Abode of Chaos

Nikola Tesla’s display of wireless electricity at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 helped seal his place as a genius and inventor whose contributions laid the groundwork for many of the conveniences of modern life. At the exposition, Tesla set up lamps that were powered by fields of high-frequency electricity. His concept relied on the work of Michael Faraday, who identified electromagnetic induction about six decades earlier. Faraday posited that when a wire carries a current of electricity, it’s able to induce electricity in other wires if they’re close enough.

A Set Back

Tesla oversaw the construction of Wardenclyffe Tower in Colorado with the hopes of creating enough wireless electricity to power homes and businesses around the world. He called his project the World Wireless System. Testing at the tower started in 1903 and prompted safety concerns. In 1917, the tower was destroyed, leaving the scientific community and the public with little faith in the idea of wireless electricity.

Revisiting a Fascinating Concept

Even though wireless electricity fell out of the consciousness of the public and innovators for several decades, the idea never really died. In fact, it has come back with a vengeance since the mid-2000s as companies began making wireless charging stations for phones and small devices.

Formed in the shape of a mat that plugs into the wall, these chargers contain coils that create a dynamic magnetized field. To charge a phone, you may need additional accessories such as a sleeve to access the electricity being generated through the mat. Still, it’s one step toward using wireless electricity to address a regular task: charging your cell phone.

Taking Wireless Electricity to a New Level

Image via Flickr by plastAnka

In March 2014, CNN reported on a startup called WiTricity that’s innovating wireless technology. Their big idea is to create the magnetic field in the air so that one electrified coil can transfer electricity to another device once it’s inside the magnetic field.

The safety of this technology is a key part of the discussion since uncontrolled electrification helped defeat Tesla’s wireless project. According to the CNN article, the magnetic fields are similar to the technology that makes wireless Internet access possible. So far, WiTricity has shown off its capability to send electricity to smartphones and home electronics.

As companies like WiTricity look at ways to make their technology more widely available, the efficiency of wireless energy transfers is at the forefront of the conversation. In addition, the company envisions wirelessly powering devices in a home, a much more reasonable scale to achieve as opposed to Tesla’s dream of having a massive tower to send power over long distances.

 

Quit Tech: 5 Ways Modern Technology is Helping People Quit Smoking

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More than half of the 50 million smokers in the United States are actively trying to quit, but only about 1.5 million of them will actually succeed. Giving up this hazardous habit is overwhelmingly difficult, but these tech-inspired solutions are here to help.

Offering a Wide Network of Support

You may not have any close friends who are quitting, but that doesn’t mean you have to undertake this challenge alone. Thanks to online support groups, you can easily connect with others around your town or around the country. SmokeFree.gov offers instant messaging, text messaging, telephone hotlines, and online resources that will help you quit. Campaigns like Stoptober offer an organized challenge that you can embark upon with others.

Providing an App for That

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There’s an app for everything, including smokers who want to quit. NHS Stop Smoking is one popular option that offers a real-time cigarette counter and helpful tips. With the LIVESTRONG MyQuit Coach, you can create a realistic plan for weaning yourself off cigarettes and dealing with cravings. Quit It Lite tallies not only the cigarettes you’ve avoided, but also the money saved and the tar you’ve kept out of your lungs. This app also lets you share your successes via social media, prompting a powerful influx of support.

Putting the Right Tools in Your Pocket

You don’t need a smartphone to carry a personal coach in your pocket. The My Stop Smoking Coach game for Nintendo DS features Allen Carr’s method to stop smoking. In the game, you create a personal profile, play mini games, get tips, and follow your progress as you make your way to a healthier, smoke-free future.

If you want the benefits of a best-selling publication and proven quitting method on hand without the time and effort that it takes to slog through an entire book, this game offers a compact and concise alternative. It’s perfect for anyone who prefers video games to reading.

Calculating the Benefits

Most people know that smoking is bad, but broad statistics don’t always translate easily to one’s daily activities. Online calculators can put your situation into more personal terms. Features like the Smoke-Free Days Calculator will show you how much money you’ve saved and how many days you’ve added to your life since you smoked that last cigarette. It also generates blog banners so you can share the good news.

Offering High-Tech Alternatives

E-cigarettes are the latest alternative for quitters who want the rush of nicotine without the tar and tobacco associated with cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, heat a combination of nicotine, chemicals, and flavoring to produce a vapor that users can inhale. The slim sticks physically resemble cigarettes and offer a similar oral experience that can ease the transition for quitters. Studies have shown that e-cigs are about as effective as the nicotine patch.

If you want to quit smoking, but the cold turkey method of willpower alone isn’t doing it for you, these tech-inspired tools could give you the edge you need for lasting success.

Pocket Banking: The Past, Present and Future of Mobile Payments

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Convenience is a motivating factor for most people, and businesses of all sorts have capitalized on that by trying new technologies and methods to draw dollars their way.

Mobile payment methods (using a phone to process payment instead of a check, charge card or cash) are still evolving. Here are some of the ways people are currently using them and what is next on the horizon.

Google Wallet

Image via Google.com

Google Wallet allows app users to upload their credit card and loyalty card information with a quick click of their mobile phone’s camera.

While its original adoption was slow because of the need for specialized credit card terminals by vendors, the need to use a Nexus S 4G phone on Sprint, and the need to apply for a specific credit card to use with the device, that has changed along with Google’s focus.

Wallet now allows you to carry all of your deals on your phone so that they are easily redeemed at checkout. After your identity is verified, you can send money to anyone with an email account through your mobile phone using either your bank account or Wallet Balance. Wallet can also be used at online retailers that feature the icon “Buy with Google”. Google Wallet also comes with 24/7 fraud protection and monitoring, a nice touch in today’s world.

Square

One of the most groundbreaking mobile payment technologies, Square, freed merchants from the cumbersome credit card reader. By placing the power of purchase in the palm of their hands, it allows them to sell to the cashless consumer. Vendors who formerly took only cash, such as farmer’s markets, food trucks, and street vendors, now have the technology to take credit card payment from mobile devices and iPads.

PayPal

PayPal grew up with the Internet. It started out as a way to process payment on websites like eBay but has grown into a method by which you can pay in store or receive payments from others. You can also use it to send money directly to someone’s bank account anywhere you have an Internet connection. PayPal also allows vendors to process credit cards through their website using their service.

Kindle

In 2014 Amazon announced that it was working on the ability to receive mobile payments through the Kindle tablet. This would mean Amazon would directly compete with Square and PayPal, the current giants in the mobile payment industry. This will be an interesting technology to watch.

NFC Chips and the Future of Mobile Payment

NFC chips, which transmit banking and payment data to card readers, are currently being used in mobile phones. However, there is a broader application possible here. These chips can be placed into Google Glass devices, watches, jewelry, and other wearable accessories that might be even easier than fumbling for your phone.

The mobile payment industry is growing and the technology changes at a rapid rate. Convenience is the driver and as long as people want to save time, mobile payments will continue to flourish.

Pet Tech: 5 Innovations for Pet Owners

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Technology has changed your life in more ways than you can count, and it can help your pets too. Look at these five innovations in pet technology that are on the market today.

Whistle: A Pet Fitness Tracker

In the movie, “I, Robot” a robot was walking a bunch of dogs. This isn’t possible in real life yet, but there is technology that can help you ensure your pet gets enough exercise. For instance, Whistle is a collar that your pet wears to track activity, such as resting, walking, running, and even swimming (yes, it’s waterproof). This information is then viewed in an app dashboard to let you know if your pet needs more exercise. Whistle also alerts you of a sudden decrease in activity so you can check on your pet’s health.

Solar Chaser: Solar-Powered Cat Toy

Another awesome bit of pet tech is the Solar Chaser. It is a solar-powered cat toy that you attach to a glass window that gets sunlight. It is great because it encourages your pet to play even when you’re not at home. Pets have tons of energy and it’s not healthy for them to be sedentary. The Solar Chaser is essential for pet owners that don’t spend a lot of time at home.

Petcube: Laser Toy for Pets

Image via Flickr by CuteKittenHorselover

Just because you’re not at home, it doesn’t mean you can’t interact with your pet. There are toys that help you play. For instance, you can turn on the Petcube and play with your dog or cat on your lunch break. There is a camera that lets you see your pet and direct the laser when you want your pet to chase it.

PiP: A Facial Recognition App to Find Missing Pets

More than likely, your pet is going to escape from your yard or get lost at some point in his or her life. That’s why lots of people microchip their pets — it’s easy way for others to identify you as the owner. However, PiP (Positive Identification of Pet) is a less invasive way to keep track of your pet. It is an app that uses facial recognition technology to positively identify your pet if he or she becomes lost. All you have to do is upload your pet to the system and others can find your contact information from there if they find your pet.

The Woofer: Pet Vest Packed with Technology

If you love running with your pet, The Woofer is a great way to improve your experience. It is a tech vest that attaches to your pet with built-in speakers and a USB port. This means you can listen to music on your walk or run without messing with headphones. It also holds your iPod or MP3 player, so you only have to worry about a leash.

These are just a few innovations in pet tech that you can buy. Some other items include a remote pet feeder, digital pet IDs, GPS tracking devices, and pet treadmills. Do you have any fun pet tech at home?

Personal Solar: 4 Steps to Powering Your Home or Business With Solar

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The planet faces a host of environmental problems, one of which is thinly stretched resources. One resource, however, that is available in abundant supply is sunlight. Using sunlight as the main source of electricity in a home or business saves money and helps the environment. What are some practical things you can do to start taking advantage of solar power?

Do the Math

One of the first steps in going solar is figuring out how much power you use daily. Take a look at your recent power bills. Divide the total number of kilowatt-hours you used during the month by the number of days in the month to figure out your average daily power consumption. You will use that number when doing further calculations to get a rough idea of how many panels you need.

The average number of sunny days per year where you live also plays a role in calculating your solar system setup. For example, a home in Seattle is likely to need more solar panels than a home in Los Angeles to get the same amount of power.

Because there are many factors to consider when planning your solar power system, you may want to talk to a pro to get an expert opinion on the size of your system and its set up.

Prepare the Area

Your home or office’s immediate surroundings can have a big impact on your system’s efficiency. For example, a lot of tall trees in the area can block sunlight and sabotage your system’s effectiveness. Consider altering the surroundings so the solar panels will receive direct sunlight during the hottest hours of the day.

Your system’s efficiency will also be affected if tall buildings surround your location. If you are serious about going solar, you may need to move or find someplace nearby where you can set up exterior solar panels.

Install and Enjoy

Image via Flickr by Mike Linksvayer

Costs vary, but hiring a professional to install a 7.5 kWh system can set you back anywhere between $50,000 and $75,000. That seems steep, but taking advantage of tax credits for installing solar power can go a long way toward mitigating the cost. Over time the savings that you see on your energy bill will make solar power worth the investment.

If you do not want to buy your system, you can find a company that rents out the panels. You pay a monthly fee for use of the panels, but you would still save money on your electricity costs.

Maintain Your System

Solar panels do not require complicated or frequent maintenance. Howstuffworks.com points out that, “Pretty much the only thing a homeowner needs to do is keep the panels clean. It’s an important task, though… Dust buildup can reduce the amount of electricity produced by the system by as much as 7 percent.” Using a hose from the ground to clean the panels should do the trick.

It takes some effort to set up a solar power system for your home or business, but once it is in place you will see the benefits in your bank account. Mother Nature won’t object either.

Is Wireless Electricity the Wave of the Future?

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Wireless technology: It’s a luxury everyone is enjoying more and more as cell phones and Wi-Fi hotspots become the norm. Today’s engineers have a firm grasp of how wireless data transfer works, but what about wireless electricity transfer? As it turns out, that technology has been within reach for more than 100 years.

In the early 1900s, energy pioneer Nicola Tesla discovered a way to wirelessly transmit power to light bulbs in his laboratory. Since then, scientists have aspired to create a world where wireless electricity reigns supreme and cumbersome cords no longer exist. How does wireless electricity work, and how likely is it that we might one day live in a completely wireless world? The answer lies in a relatively new development called Resonance Energy Transfer.

Resonance Energy Transfer

Image via Flickr Filter Forge

Resonance energy transfer requires three major pieces of hardware: A power source, a highly resonant transmitter, and a highly resonant receiver. Electricity originates at the power source, where a coil, capacitors, and inductors create a magnetic field. When the transmitter and receiver both resonate at the same frequency, electricity flows between them through this magnetic field.

The WiTricity Corporation: Striving for a Wireless Future

A progressive company called WiTricity boasts that electronic devices “capable of recharging themselves without ever being plugged in” loom just around the corner. Company official and marketing VP Kaynam Hedayat believes WiTricity products will sweep the globe in the same way that Wi-Fi has. “You will see this technology embed itself,” Hedayat predicts, “into [. . .] cell phone(s) [. . .] laptop(s), and PCs.”

Implications for Human Health

The fact that innovators like WiTricity are pushing us toward magnetic field-induced electricity begs the question: Is this type of electricity safe for human beings? The answer is yes, according to WiTricity technologist Dr. Katie Hall. The magnetic fields used in wireless energy transfer are as harmless as the fields used in Wi-Fi routers, she says. And while it’s true that Wi-Fi puts small amounts of radiation into the air, no evidence of human harm has ever been found due to Wi-Fi.

Wireless Electricity: The Pros

A world with wireless electricity would offer several major benefits:

 

  • A clean, renewable source of electricity that wouldn’t advance our environmental debt.
  • The elimination of bulky electrical cords and throw-away batteries.
  • More efficient medical technologies.
  • A boost to the wireless automobile industry that would, in turn, decrease our need for crude oil.
  • A simpler, greener world.

 

Wireless Electricity: The Cons

A wireless world would have its own set of annoyances, as well, including:

 

  • Charging a device through resonance energy transfer would take a lot longer than traditional charging.
  • A device’s mobility would be severely limited while on the charging pad.
  • The manufacture of devices receptive to wireless charging can be complex and costly.

 

Market analysts expect the pros to outweigh the cons. Pike Research predicts that, over the next eight years, the wireless electricity market’s revenue will grow from $5 billion to about $15 billion. Two of the most likely places for this expansion are domestic homes and hospitals, where the technology would be used to save money and save lives.