For real? Microbattery stops the IoT avalanche

September 14, 2016 | 00:00
If we are to believe the industry pundits and stock brokers, there’s nothing to stop the IoT from “going avalanche” in terms of business results and big $$$s in the pocket. And it seems plausible that enormous profits are just waiting to be grabbed if only you realize “the zillion things out there” that can be connected to the web one way or another. And that’s not just complex equipment like the food-scanning, auto-ordering fridge my fellow editor Jens wrote about in last week’s editorial piece, but also a humble pressure sensor in your wife’s car left front wheel. If it can be IoT’ed, it will — it is hyped.

Small things require small power sources like microbatteries and hey, suddenly we might have a ‘show stopper’ in the growth of IoT: the beast is called enforceable patents.

According to a report from KnowMade [1], solid-state lithium microbatteries are dominated by big guns PowerPaper, Cymbet, Infinite Power Solutions and ST Microelectronics, with at least four smaller companies actively tweaking prototypes and expecting  to commercialize them within a year or two.  Take, for instances, FET’s production line for 0.1-mm to 0.4-mm thick NanoEnergy cells with an annual capacity of 200 Kpieces of 1-mAh cells — that’s your IoT microbattery.

Wherever there’s money to be made there’s strife potentially. Several companies with strong IP positions have already filed patent litigations against overenthusiastic microbattery manufacturers. Although French research laboratory CEA is still the main patent holder around the world, the Knowmade report says Cymbet, Polyplus Battery, Infinite Power Solutions and Panasonic have the strongest patent portfolios with a real IP blocking potential (= the best lawyers).

And so we may have a situation (again) of 1 (one) proud inventor/patent holder(s) holding out against a massive consumer market wanting to live on Cloud9 24/7/365 and not paying extra for the battery.  And the lawyers making a fortune. Before you respond from your (internet-connected) computer, virtualize yourself for a moment as a PPH (proud patent holder).

[1] Microbattery Patent Landscape Analysis.  By Dr Fleur Thissandier and Dr Nicolas Baron; KnowMade, France.
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