01 March 2017

The Asymptote of Progress - part the second

Another in the desultory series on the flattening of the knowledge and progress curves that determine our lives. Battery tech has been mentioned a few times, and it's come up again. This time reporting from the Mobile World Congress. Some of it is just funny:
For sure, there are fancy new phones, internet-connected gadgets (including, for some unknown reason, a toothbrush with artificial intelligence) and enough driverless car demos to sink a battleship ...

A toothbrush? Perhaps it will be used to inject signals into the brain?

Anyway, the bit that caught my eye as it relates to the progress thing:
There's a new bunch of smartwatches on show at the Mobile World Congress, but the biggest selling point is that the batteries of these new devices will last up to a month. That longevity, however, requires turning off almost all of the "connected" services: So companies have basically created, well, a normal watch, but one with a $400 price tag.

Bitten in the asymptote, yet again.
Q: When will longer testing batteries be available? Ones that don't catch fire!
You've hit on the holy grail of mobile technology, and it has come up a lot at the Mobile World Congress. Samsung's recent problems with Galaxy Note 7s that kept catching fire are only one example of how batteries have become a major obstacle to advancement in smartphones.

How long will it take to get longer-lasting batteries? It's hard to say, though my colleague John Markoff wrote recently about "solid state" lithium batteries that could be safer and give engineers greater flexibility. People here in Barcelona say that's years away.

It's worth remembering that this problem isn't new. Here's what Thomas Edison had to say in 1883: "The storage battery is one of those peculiar things which appeal to the imagination, and no more perfect thing could be desired by stock swindlers than that very selfsame thing."

Here's the link to the Markoff piece. These are safer lithium batteries, but no mention that they're higher energy density. Oh well.

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