A Silicon Valley-based MIT spin-out has been granted a patent for technology that would potentially integrate solar power harvesting and usage within outdoor digital signage displays.
Ubiquitous Energy says the new US patent extends the coverage of its ClearView Power technology to display applications. The patent, U.S. Patent 10,403,774, describes a method in which solar technology can be seamlessly integrated with displays to provide power without visual impact.
“This patent is a great utilization of our transparent solar technology’s wavelength-selective absorption. This allows product designers to create products integrated with solar energy harvesting while maintaining great aesthetics,” says founder and CTO Miles Barr.
While the company’s short-term commercialization efforts are focused in architectural window and building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) markets, the company says in a press release, this display patent shows the breadth of the company’s platform technology, which can be applied to a variety of products including commercial and residential windows, automotive glass, greenhouses, displays, other consumer electronics.
The company describes its tech this way:
Ubiquitous Energy solves this problem by covering the full display area of mobile devices with its highly transparent ClearView Power film without impacting device aesthetics or display performance. Electricity is continuously generated from ambient light to charge batteries and extend run time. When applied to smart watches, tablets, eReaders, and smartphones, ClearView Power technology can extend battery life and even eliminate batteries for a totally mobile experience.
This would be potentially interesting for certain kinds of out of home and smart city applications that need to be in public areas. Ideally, something like a transit stop shelter already has power for lighting, but if not, the remedy usually involves cutting concrete and running new power and conduit – none of which is fast or anything resembling cheap.
Most outdoor signage applications would require high-brightness displays, so I’ve no idea if this solar absorption tech can harvest enough to drive those kinds of screens (big maybe). It might be best suited to low demand applications like e-paper transit schedule displays, that now tend to use separate solar collector panels.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.