If you dislike charging your smartwatch in the morning after using it for sleep monitoring, you should check out Powerwatch 2 by Matrix Industries. It is a smartwatch with all the basic functions such as GPS, activity tracking, and sleep monitoring. It is powered by your own body heat and a small circular patch of solar cells. This is achieved by a thermoelectric element on the backside of the watch which uses the heat that we constantly release from our skin.
Apart from creating the Powerwatch, Matrix specializes in making thermoelectric elements with the advantage of a good way of dissipating the excess heat that can normally ruin the temperature difference that is required for a thermoelectric to work. In addition, they have an upcoming energy-efficient and ultrafast drink cooler in their product line.
- Powerwatch I & II
- Other Products
- Outlook on the Company
- Short facts
Powerwatch I & II:
The newest version of the smartwatch, Powerwatch II, offers heart rate monitoring, GPS location tracking, activity tracking, sleep monitoring, and calorie counting on a full-color display. Furthermore, it is robust and has a 200 m water resistance so you can use it for a wide range of sports. You most likely never have to worry about charging it, as the watch generates electricity from both your body heat and the sun. When it is very hot, above 32 °C (90°F), the thermoelectric will not charge it[i], but the solar cells will continue to do so if there is light. On rare occasions when the weather is hot and there is no light or if you are not wearing it at night, it is possible to charge it if the battery runs out. A small bonus is that when you are more active, the smartwatch charges faster.
Perhaps the biggest downside to the watch is that the price is a bit high for the features it has, starting at USD 499. Another small downside for some may be the slightly bulky design that is necessary for it to utilize the thermoelectric. The older version Powerwatch I, starts at a discount price at USD 99 which could be for you if you just want a thermoelectric powered smartwatch. If you want to be part of the community of users owning the World’s first smartwatch powered by body heat, it might be worth it.
The thermoelectric component named “Gemini” made by Matrix utilizes a bulk nanostructure where nanoholes with a fixed distance have the effect of slowing down heat transfer but still allows for electrons to flow and thereby electricity. This is key to making a good thermoelectric. What makes their material special, however, is its ability to, in a sense, turn off parts of it so that it minimizes the loss that other thermoelectrics normally have when not operating at full capacity. This allows it to operate at very low temperature differences of down to 1 °C.
Yet another part of their technology is to use the power generated a lot more efficiently than what is normally the case. A lot of the electronics are therefore low in power consumption without compromising the features of the smartwatch.
Other products from matrix
As a company working with thermoelectric technologies, Matrix is focused on two areas: energy harvesting and cooling. It not only sells thermoelectric materials but also has products used to optimize the use of harvested energy in IoT applications and monitoring devices for measuring performance. Instead of constantly running and hence not working on low power, an IoT device using Matrix’s solution would send signals when it has generated enough power and thereby using it more optimally.
An innovative product, named Juno, on the way to the market, is an extremely fast drink cooler able to cool down a bottle of wine in a matter of minutes. So far, Matrix has demonstrated a prototype and raised USD 298,722 on Indiegogo[iii] (high above the target of USD 100,000).
Outlook on the Company
Apart from being highly innovative, what Matrix Industries Inc. seem to do well is using their consumer-focused products to promote the technology behind. In that way, they demonstrate how it can be used for energy harvesting and cooling in other applications.
Despite a successful crowdsourcing campaign on Indiegogo which exceeded the goal by a great deal, the company admits to facing some challenges in reaching deadlines for their upcoming product, Juno, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They also face a bit of critique for not giving enough updates, which although concerning could actually be a good thing and preferred as it might just mean that they are focused on bringing the product to the market instead of replying right away to backers.
Matrix is competing in various markets: wearables, energy harvesting, cooling, and soon kitchen hardware. It does however seem to have found a niche in combining these markets by finding ways to benefit its products across them and creating a strong company image.
The market for smartwatches is expected to grow from $20.64 billion in 2019 to $96.31 billion by 2027 with major players such as Samsung, Apple, Fitbit, and Garmin[iv]. Here, Matrix Industries are competing in a segment of simpler watches with fewer functions than for example an apple watch but is also in its own class creating a community of people excited about the tech. The market for thermoelectric generators is expected to grow from USD 460 Million in 2019 to USD 741 Million by 2025 with an average annual growth rate of 8.3 %[v]. Here, some of the major players are Gentherm, Inc. (US), II-VI Marlow, Inc. (US), and Ferrotec Corporation (Japan). This market is closely related to thermoelectric cooling as the same products are used, so many of the same competitors operate in it as well.
The best alternative to the upcoming product Juno seems to be the Cooper Cooler[vi] from Revolutionary Cooling Systems, Inc., but this alternative is hardly comparable as it simply spins bottles in iced water which is a high energy-consuming process, requires more steps, and for you to have ice. Nor does it seem like an attractive way for restaurants or bars to cool drinks, which likely makes Juno the number one option when it comes out.
- Status: Private
- Founded in 2011 by CEO, Akram Boukai, and CTO, Douglas Tham. Both with a PhD from Caltech.
- Total funding[vii] between USD 10-20 m.
- Successfully used crowdfunding to launch two of their consumer-oriented products.
- No. of employees[viii]: 24
- Offices: HQ: Menlo Park, CA, US
Note: Featured image has been re-printed with permission from Matrix Industries Inc.