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Cutting the Cord
From a very young age, Meredith Perry has been interested in science and technology. “My grandfather taught me about black holes, which sparked an insatiable need to learn about space,” recalls the 25-year-old. “Growing up, I would collaborate with both of my grandfathers on inventions. I entered numerous science fair competitions, always searching for the next big idea.”
Tired of being tethered to a wall outlet, her big idea came one day as she was packing up her laptop.
“As I was winding up my 15-foot-long power cord, I wondered why my devices were wireless, yet I still had to deal with this cord,” recalls Perry.
The University of Pennsylvania graduate spent days researching power sources, talking to everyone she could, and asking hundreds of questions.
“I learned that the signal in a TV remote was too weak, radio waves were too tightly regulated by the government, and X-rays were too dangerous,” she says. “I kept coming back to ultrasound as the only possible way to generate energy efficiently and safely.”
Because ultrasound is not electromagnetic, it does not carry the same regulatory or safety concerns as many of the other technologies in development. “It is the only technology that can be used in aircraft, a car, or a hospital because it doesn’t interfere with existing communication systems or electronics,” she says.
Perry’s concept, uBeam, is made up of two parts: a transmitter and a receiver, which will initially be embedded into a mobile phone case.
“The transmitter beams out energy much like a speaker, but instead of audible sound, it emits ultrasound at a frequency higher than a human can hear,” she explains. “The ultrasound vibrates a receiver in response to the sound at a frequency too fast to feel, which is converted into electricity that charges your device. It is the only technology that will provide true wireless power safely and across a great enough distance at scale.”
The size of the transmitter dictates the range at which power can be transmitted.
“The uBeam charging experience will be similar to that of Wi-Fi,” she explains.
Invention creates buzz
It seems the young female inventor is definitely onto something. In 2011, she entered and won the grand prize in Pennvention (pennvention.io), her alma mater’s invention competition.
“A well-known tech reporter at the Wall Street Journal heard about uBeam through a PennVention press release and asked if I would demo the technology at the All Things D conference,” remembers Perry. “I was overwhelmed, but I went for it. Four weeks later, I was at the event in front of some of the biggest names in the technology industry.”
As a result of the conference, she landed $750,000 in seed money from well-known investors like Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund.
“With the first iteration, the receiver will be embedded into a smartphone case,” she notes. “In the future, it will be embedded into a variety of devices.”
Perry anticipates launching uBeam commercially in late 2016.
So what will it cost you to cut the cord? “Our aim is to make it accessible for the average consumer,” she notes.
Learn more by visiting uBeam.com.