Nowi has been keeping its name in the news in 2021. So far this year, the energy-harvesting expert has announced a handful of strategic partnerships utilizing its power management integrated chip (PMIC). But as its PMIC starts to gain market traction, especially in the remote-control domain, what’s on deck for the Delft-based startup?
After several years of development and market introduction, things seem to be picking up for Nowi. In 2021 alone, the Delft-based power management specialist has announced five partnerships that aim to leverage its energy harvesting power management integrated chip (PMIC) to power several consumer products limiting the waste of battery replacement. From Murata’s low-power long-range (Lora) IoT modules and Nordic’s Blue Coral IoT board, to electronic shelf labels in the retail domain together with Opticon or eco-friendly remote controls (RCs) of Remote Solutions and Telink, it seems Nowi’s sustainable power solution is gaining traction.
Nowi’s PMIC uses ambient sources like solar energy derived from indoor lightning or vibration from movement, to capture otherwise useless energy and convert it into a sustainable source of power. “Our chip is specially designed to take these very low fluctuating currents from these various ambient sources and boost them to a stable output that can be used by electronics,” explains CEO Simon van der Jagt. “In doing so, our technology can have a meaningful impact by extending product lifespans and helping reduce e-waste such as the millions of batteries being thrown away each year.”
While its recent slate of partnerships have come in quick succession, they certainly didn’t happen overnight. “We’ve been in communication with these and many other companies over the last few years, but we’ve noticed that in the last 12 months or so, something has clicked, and companies are starting meet their corporate messaging on reducing their CO2 footprints,” suggests Van der Jagt.
Cheaper, smaller and simpler
At first glance, these partnerships may not seem like a significant part of sustainability efforts, but if you zoom into the TV and entertainment electronics domain, consumers are throwing out somewhere between 10-14 AAA batteries over the lifetime of the tv, along with those from sound systems and other entertainment devices. “This waste adds up really quickly. Every year, we’re throwing out hundreds of millions of batteries, for no real reason at all, because there are already readily available solutions,” illustrates Van der Jagt.
That being said, Van der Jagt also acknowledges that there hasn’t been a good incentive for manufacturers to make these changes. “To be fair, traditionally, adding features like this was very costly and required fitting additional components and layers of complexity into really small spaces,” says Van der Jagt. “But that’s been one of the driving factors for us at Nowi, a focus on making the components cheaper, smaller and simpler. We’ve reduced the number of external components from 10-15 down to just one small capacitor, which costs less than one cent in high volume and is 10-30 times smaller on the PCB. Better yet, it’s entirely self-programming, so it really is as simple as just placing the chip and letting it do its job. It doesn’t get much simpler.”
Micro focus, macro impact
As pleased as Nowi is with the recent success in partnerships, the scale-up has no plans to let up off the accelerator in its development and growth into other domains. Right now, the company is busy developing specialized trackers and sensors to help power various smart city projects, all without the need to physically replace hundreds of thousands of batteries on a routine basis. It’s also busy in other domains like watches, wearables and other battery-powered small tech. Van der Jagt: “Any of these projects alone might not seem so big and exciting, but when you look at them from a sheer numbers perspective, this sort of micro focus can have a major macro impact.”
In parallel with these other projects, the power management expert is also looking for ways to improve or enhance its PMIC and add functionality for the future. “If we look ahead to the next 5-10 years, we expect that energy harvesting will become more ubiquitous in nearly all electronics. So, we’re really focused on transforming our technology to become more multi-purpose and adaptive in nature,” highlights Van der Jagt. “Of course, that means added cost and complexity on a chip level, while reducing it on a product level. We’re focused on adding this functionality while maintaining our philosophy of building our chip to enable cheaper, smaller and simpler energy harvesting product implementations for our customers. In fact, we expect that in the coming months to unveil details of our next-generation PMIC.”