Nikola Labs launches Kickstarter
Born from research in The Ohio State University Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering's ElectroScience Lab, startup company Nikola Labs launched its first product on Kickstarter this week.
Find the Nikola Labs Kickstarter page HERE.
The company shocked the tech world last month at TechCrunch Disrupt New York with its groundbreaking phone case, which extends a phone’s battery life by harvesting its own wasted radio frequency (RF) energy.
The Kickstarter campaign is live and backers can now receive their own iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy S6 case with Nikola Labs technology for $99. (Editor's note: We recommend getting one in Scarlet & Grey, of course). Buyers will be the first to receive it with an estimated ship date of February 2016.
“We are launching on Kickstarter because it’s one of the biggest platforms for early adopters and tech enthusiasts to engage with new ideas,” company CEO Will Zell said. “We’re not just launching a product - our goal is to build a community to help bring this technology to other devices and industries.”
Zell said “building a strong community starts with local," which led Nikola to source nearly all of its suppliers here in Ohio.
As reported previously, Nikola Labs arose out of a partnership with IKOVE Venture Partners, the labs at ECE and Technology Commercialization Office at Ohio State. There is a strong effort within the University to leverage research and launch spin off companies. Nikola Labs is now an example of this university-wide initiative.
The product now services the iPhone 6 case, yet it was recently announced the technology will soon benefit Andriod Galaxy S6 users as well.
While Nikola Labs is currently focused on harvesting wasted energy emitted from mobile devices, Zell said he has bigger plans for the future.
"We're excited about getting this technology into consumer's hands, but we are also focusing on what's next. Our goal is beyond just this phone case. We're working to enable an entire platform for powering future devices," he said.
How Does it Work?
Mobile devices like tablets and phones use RF waves– like WiFi, Bluetooth and LTE– to transmit data through the air. These RF waves are a form of energy and can be harnessed to create electricity. The process of converting RF into direct current (DC) power was first pioneered by Nikola Tesla over a century ago.
When transmitting, only a small fraction of the phone’s signal actually reaches the receiver, while the majority of the signal is wasted to the air. To capture that wasted power, Nikola Labs is utilizing patent-pending technology created at The Ohio State University ElectroScience Laboratory. The team saw an opportunity to convert this wasted RF energy into DC power and use it to extend the battery life of the phone.
The cases have three key components:
• Built-in ‘low-profile’ antennas
• A high efficiency RF harvesting circuit
• An integrated lightning port to feed power back into the phone
The Nikola phone case increases battery life by slowing the rate at which the phone’s internal battery discharges and does this:
• Without impacting data transmission rates or call quality
• With no supplemental batteries, allowing the case to be significantly slimmer than typical powered cases
• While providing a layer of protection through its lightweight, high-strength polycarbonate material offered in a variety of colors
• With easy access to the headphone jack and charging port
Nikola Labs plans to release a full system of products including routers that are fully optimized to provide RF-to-DC charging solutions. Future technologies from Nikola Labs will be able to charge the battery instead of just slowing down the discharge.
Nikola Labs has created a “Beta Team” level for early-adopters who want to not only try but also aide in the development of future product lines. Beta Team members will be asked to give their feedback on products that are still in development and help visualize future uses for the technology.
The main idea leading to the innovation was originally generated by Drs. Can Emre Koksal and Ness Shroff. The two then teamed up with Dr. Chi-Chih Chen to implement self harvesting of the communication signals. With the help of Chen's student Roland Tallos, the group worked over the next year bringing the prototype into realization, even using some of their own funds for equipment. Nikola Labs was then founded based on their existing patent), which went on to provide funded support for all three professors, Chen, Koksal, and Shroff (Project #60047807, “Smartphone RF Energy Harvesting Skin Prototype Development,” PI: Chen, co-PI: Koksal and Shroff) to further develop the technology. Under that support, Chen continued the process of implementation.
Paper: Saleh G., Koksal C. E., and Shroff N. B., "Optimal SINR Based Resource Allocation for Simultaneous Energy and Information Transfer," IEEE GlobalSIP Symposium on Energy Harvesting and Green Wireless Communications, GlobalSIP 13, Austin, TX