Bringing IoT to Greener Cars and Cleaner Cities
By Bill Moore
Lord Paul Drayson talks with EV World about how wireless electric car charging for Formula E racing led him to create Freevolt, the world's first practical RF energy harvesting system for powering low-energy micro-electronic devices.
First a preface:
What are the odds?
EV World's interview with Lord Paul Drayson was postponed several times over the past two months due to his hectic schedule. Then when we finally arrange for our call it occurs the same day and time a contractor shows up to repair an improperly installed flooring strip! I had hoped neither would overlap. Unfortunately they did.
Worse, at several points during the interview, the contractor sounds like he's installing the floor instead of just repairing one small corner of it. So with sincerest apologies to Lord Drayson, who in the end seemed quite amused by the whole affair, and to you, dear EV World listener, we offer the following MP3 recording of our conversation, sawing and hammering included at no extra charge.
I had the opportunity to interview Drayson in September of 2013, after he successfully set the land speed record for an electric vehicle under 1000 kg (2,204 lbs), hitting an official maximum speed of 204.180 mph.
Given his passion for racing, he formed one of the first teams to participate in the inaugural Formula E race series, selling the team to Trulli GP so he could focus on the technology. But not before crashing in Monaco and coming away an inch and a half shorter, he explained. His firm, Drayson Technologies, provides the 20kW wireless charging system for the races. He is pictured above with Formula E founder and CEO Alejandro Agag. Both are holding a Freevolt-powered CleanSpace sensor.
Then he saw an opportunity in the emerging world of the Internet of Things (IoT) and decided to put his time and talents to work recruiting a development team to take a decades-old idea and making it a practical and commercially-viable product. The result is Freevolt, essentially a specially-tuned antenna and amplifier circuitry that "harvests" radio waves. All wireless communication from WiFi to cellular to radio and TV, use a carrier wave to transmit their signals. Drayson's Freevolt antenna uses that RF energy to power very low energy devices.
The first product his firm has released, funded by a successful Crowdfunder campaign, is CleanSpace, which integrates Freevolt technology with a micro carbon monoxide (CO)sensor and embedded Bluetooth transmitter into a single battery-free air pollution monitor for detecting CO levels both outdoors and indoors. Drayson explains that at CO is a good way to measure local urban air pollution levels. He also mentioned that a future iteration will measure another critical pollution indicator: nitrogen oxide or NOx.
Requiring no batteries, the CleanSpace CO sensor can be fit onto the back of most cellphones. Communicating with the CleanSpace app on the user's phone, it records and displays pollution data, which can also be shared with the Cloud, allowing the mapping and analyzing of pollution levels across a wide geographic area. Drayson told EV World that since it's launch 20 weeks ago, some 49,000 people have joined the network, most of them in the UK, with many living and working in London, where Drayson Technologies is located. The firm has received regulatory approval for the device in Europe and is seeking certification with the FCC in the United States. While the CleanSpace app is free, the device or appliance is £75 ($107US).
Besides wanting to catch up on Drayson's activities since 2013 for EV World readers, Bill also wanted to discuss, off-the-record, possible areas of collaboration with respect to integrating CleanSpace sensors into EV World's Quikbyke electric bicycle rental startup, which is also actively exploring ways to introduce IoT technologies to improve the rider experience. Watch for possible future announcements.
Finally, one more note about the quality of the audio, the contractor's sporadic hammering starts at around the 16-minute mark, ending at around the 19-minute mark. It then resumes briefly for a minute at the 22:30 mark, so you may wish to skip over those portions if they become too annoying. But by all means, please listen to at least the first half of the discussion. It is rich with information.
Originally published: 27 Jan 2016
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