Remember when the only batteries you had to worry about were the AAs for your remote? The truth is that with all the technical problems that come along with the convenience of mobile devices, the biggest pain continues to be a short battery life.
The Associated Press reported last week that Nokia is temporarily dropping development of fuel-cell batteries that would run off a refillable stash of methanol. The fuel cells – which could have applications for both laptops and phones – would provide plenty of juice for new power-zapping video applications and would do away with the need to plug into an outlet.
The problem is that the highly flammable methanol would have to be specially packaged because of new air transportation regulations that soon will outlaw even disposable lighters on planes.
However, the regulations don’t appear to have dismayed other companies. Big laptop makers such as Toshiba and IBM are still working on this type of fuel-cell battery. The San Jose Mercury News reports that a small New Jersey company called Millennium Cell has teamed up with Dow Chemical to develop a fuel cell that uses a hydrogen reaction – the same principle that could soon power cars.
That technology is at least two years away and might first be used for military applications.
A more reliable way of extending battery life could be around as early as next year. PC Magazine reports that Intel’s next-generation Centrino platform, dubbed Napa, will be designed to draw less power from hardware components, especially CPUs. But questions remain about how well it will be able to tame laptops’ biggest power hogs, Liquid Crystal Displays.
RFID, Under Our Skin:
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is so common these days that certain factions in Europe are starting to protest the proliferation and the European Union is starting to develop privacy guidelines for the tags’ use.
And they may be just in time. Forbes reports that Harvard Medical is developing a line of grain-of-rice-sized RFID smart chips that can be slipped under a patient’s skin to carry all his or her important medical information. Harvard Medical’s CIO lists the chip, which he’s had implanted to help pilot-test the line, as his favorite gadget.