This is part eight of a ten-part series leading up to the inaugural Australian release of the Digital IQ report.

The modern wave of smart devices has been made possible mainly due to the massive leaps and bounds in battery technology over the past several decades. While laptop computers once contained barely enough charge to last an hour or two, most ultrabook counterparts can last a trip across the Pacific.

The power consumption of modern smart devices has become demanding  and put a strain on the current capabilities of battery life. this is primarily due to their shrinking size,  bright displays, wireless receivers and transmitters and always connected via Wi-Fi even for devices without sims.  User behaviours toward increasing numbers of applications, mobile video streaming, location aware and push technology have further pounded the battery.

Businesses hoping to make more breakthroughs in tech have been working hard to both minimise the size of batteries and maximise their power. For new gadgetry such as wearable tech, including smartwatches, this is critical – the consumer experience depends on being able to use these devices for an extended period of time.

This has also led to an effort to experiment with different methods of power, including solar and magnetic charging, in an attempt to make devices last longer.  A range of innovative new technologies are working hard to change this, such as Wi-Charge leveraging infra-red wireless charging, and Powermat

The struggles around battery technology aren’t just an effort to create the newest and greatest gadgets – they’re critical in ensuring the industry continues to thrive.

Battery life as a feature

Battery technology has always been a problem, but for the early years of the mobile phone takeover, the relatively low amount of features included in such devices didn’t require much juice.

As smartphones have developed, the race for adding new features and capabilities has continued – market leaders are not necessarily promising more battery life, but instead are struggling to maintain the same amount of power. This has led to significant efforts within technology companies to create software fixes and loopholes which save on battery power, while still providing faster calculations.  From the network operators and major network vendors perspective, there is awareness that poor network connections or coverage areas take their toll on battery life, and educating developers on efficiency of transmission, can yield results in the way applications are designed over 3G and LTE networks.

Smaller form factors have also placed increasing pressure on enterprises to investigate new methods of charging and power. At this point, industry innovation is now closely tied to the amount of extra power which can be achieved through battery power – it is currently the biggest barrier to mainstream success.

Recently, reports indicate companies such as Apple are experimenting with new methods of battery tech, including solar and magnetic charging stations to be used with wearable devices – such as a smartwatch. Others have already commercialised wireless power, allowing devices to be charged without being plugged in.

A significant amount of innovation is also coming from spaces apart from consumer technology. In the automotive business, companies such as Tesla are making waves by experimenting with longer-lasting battery power.

The future

The goal of building a better battery isn’t just a problem for manufacturers, but for any business. With the majority of commerce now shifting into mobiles and tablets, the ability for consumers to be always connected is of primary importance – any factor which takes that ability away becomes a threat.

Limited battery power has become a problem consumers are increasingly savvy and, even emotional about. The iPad is only as big as it is because of the battery, which takes up the majority of the gadget’s space.

While enterprises in the manufacturing space need to consider how innovation can produce better products, there is equally a need for digital businesses of all kind to optimise their products for as little battery life needed as possible. Developers of the 2.5million apps available on the App Store and Google Play vary significantly in their efficiency of battery use.  Consideration by development teams of impact of their design principles and coding on both battery and data transmitted has become increasingly important as technology savvy users realise the impact.

While the technology of batteries will continue to develop and grow, the consequence for consumers, digitally-savvy enterprise and developers will become only more real with the proliferation of connected sensors, devices and remote monitoring we know as ‘the internet of things’.

Stay tuned for the ninth entry in our Digital IQ series, which will delve into 3D printing, and how it’s changing the manufacturing industry. 

Part 1: The new age of analytics
Part 2: Social enterprise and keeping everyone connected
Part 3: The future of ecommerce is the mobile revolution
Part 4: The new age of cyber security
Part 5: On-demand business technology
Part 6: Sensors and the internet of things
Part 7: How robotics is changing the future of tech