Hatem Zeine, President and Founder of Ossia, joins the podcast to discuss wireless power and the future of sustainably powering IoT. Hatem begins the podcast by talking about the technology his company is working on and why wireless charging is ready for adoption. He also provides a high-level overview of how wireless power works and how it will integrate with current devices. Hatem also addresses the perception of wireless power as health concerns over new devices and technology continue to grow. To wrap up the podcast, Ryan and Hatem discuss what has taken the technology this long to be available and what the future looks like for wireless power.
Hatem Zeine is the founder and president of Ossia. An avid inventor and proven technologist with more than two decades of technical development experience. Hatem founded Ossia in 2008 and invented and developed the Wi-Fi-like wireless power technology, Cota, and launched the company in 2013. He now completely manages Ossia’s global team of engineers responsible for both the vision and execution of Cota. Before starting Ossia, Hatem was a Director/Principal Engineer at Microsoft, leading PM, Development, and Test initiatives. Hatem holds a BS in Physics from the University of Manchester in the UK and is a recognized expert on wireless power and its potential. He holds tens of granted patents globally related to Ossia’s Cota technology and beyond.
Interested in connecting with Hatem? Reach out on Linkedin!
Ossia Inc. is leading the world on what is possible with wireless power. Ossia’s flagship Cota® technology redefines wireless power by safely delivering remote, targeted energy to devices at a distance. Ossia’s Cota technology is a patented smart antenna technology that automatically keeps multiple devices charged without any user intervention and enables an efficient and truly wire-free, powered-up world that is always on and always connected. Ossia is headquartered in Redmond, Washington.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:25) Introduction to Hatem and Ossia
(04:52) What is Ossia working on?
(06:40) Where is the most adoption happening for this tech?
(11:45) What makes devices compatible with wireless charging.
(14:48) What has taken wireless power so long to get to market?
(19:09) Perception of the public of wireless charging
(21:35) Where is the future of sustainable power heading?
– [Voice Over] You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.
– [Ryan] Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All Podcast. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon. And on today’s episode, we have Hatem Zeine, the president and founder of Ossia. They are a company focus on leading the world on what is possible with wireless power. So their flagship product “Cota” is a technology that redefines wireless power by safely delivering remote targeted energy to devices at a distance. So, we talk a lot about that. We talk a lot about the current state of sustainable power in IoT, why did wireless power take so long to come to market? The perception of wireless power, and whether it’s, possible and safe. And then where we kind of see wireless power initiative kind of heading in the future and what it really means for consumer, enterprise, commercial kind of IoT, and the potential there. So, a lot of very interesting conversations kind of happen in this episode. Really think we’ll get a lot of value out of it. But, before we get into this, if any of you out there are looking to enter the fast growing and profitable IoT market, but don’t know where to start, check out our sponsor Leverege. Leverege’s IoT solutions development platform, provides everything you need to create turnkey IoT products that you can white label and resell under your own brand. To learn more, go to iotchangeseverything.com, that’s iotchangeseverything.com. And without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All Podcast. Welcome to the IoT For All Podcast. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Hatem] Thank you. Thank you, Ryan.
– [Ryan] Yeah, it’s great-
– [Hatem] Pleasure to be here.
– [Ryan] Yeah, absolutely, it’s great to have you, looking forward to this conversation. I think you guys had some very interesting things going on, at the company. So let’s dive right in, let’s have you give a quick introduction about yourself, talk about kind of background experience, anything you think will be relevant for our audience.
– [Hatem] Yeah, my name’s Hatem Zeine, I’m the Founder, CTO, and President of Ossia. We are basically bringing real wireless power to the world. Basically, the ability to deliver power to devices at a distance. So you’d never have to worry about pesky batteries or running expensive wires, in places where you don’t want to see wires. So, we’re trying to basically relieve the IoT from the shackles of the ball and chain, I call them the battery and the wire that enables us to really go ahead with deploying the true value of IoT in the world.
– [Ryan] Yeah, that’s fantastic. Anytime I have a founder on, I always love to hear a little bit more about kind of the story behind the company. So, what was kind of going on before the founding of this that kind of presented you with the opportunity that you felt was worth diving in and solving and starting a company around?
– [Hatem] Right, and, Ryan that’s a great question. The thing is that I don’t believe that big major inventions happen because you intentionally want to solve it. And a lot of the best inventions we have, anything from, the discovery of penicillin or the, plastics or the Post-it Notes event were all, by chance that they were created. And, from Ossia’s perspective, I’m a physicist by education, I studied physics at Manchester University in England. And, I’ve been working on technology ever since, but I’ve been a software guy, if you like from even before going to college, and in the ’80s and maybe late ’70s. And I started my first software company. And in the ’90s, we started getting Wi-Fi for the first time, and Wi-Fi didn’t really deliver on the promise of 10 mega bit 10 meters at the time. And I was thinking like, from my physics knowledge and RF and so on, you should be able to improve that with adding more antennas into the Wi-Fi hub so that you could, increase carrier and signal at the receiver. So, I came up with an algorithm from physics called retro-directivity to try to improve the Wi-Fi signal. And, I did some simulations, it showed like four or eight antennas would improve the signal greatly. And, if you look around today’s Wi-Fi hubs, they all come with that kinda antenna structure. But, at the time, I thought, okay, what if you used like 1000 antennas in the system, in the Wi-Fi hub? It’s a crazy idea, I was just, messing around with this simulator. But it showed that, you could deliver 1/3 of the radiated energy to a device at five meters away. So, that’s where the bulb came up, like- This is beyond data communication. And, started pursuing, what does this mean? And turns out that this invention that I came up along with actually had fantastic capabilities way beyond just delivering power at a distance.
– [Ryan] So let me ask then, so, anytime we talked with other companies around areas of sustainability and IoT, we’ve talked about obviously the connectivity side. So, from my understanding, what this allows you to do is to power devices at a distance so that they can run without having to be plugged in or rely on battery power, is that correct?
– [Hatem] Absolutely. If you go back 20 years ago, how many devices in your home needed charging, batteries and so on? We may have had a cell phone or two, or maybe even like pagers were being faced out at the time. There were remote controls, very few things. Like, even if you installed a home security system, they would run wires at the time. Yeah, and, I would count like the number of devices with batteries or low power needs in the home in the year 2000, probably around 10, five to 10 devices, you can count the remote controls and things you have around the house. Today, the number is about 100. If you consider home security system, every window seal, every door has a battery powered sensor, the thermostats, all kinds of devices we are having today really boost that number, and just about anything you buy these days comes with a battery and some communication device. Think of Wi-Fi, when Wi-Fi was invented it was for laptops, for data communication. Today, most of the devices in my house connecting to Wi-Fi are not laptops for sure. My video doorbell or the home security system even, and my setup box, et cetera, all of these were uses we never thought of at the time.
– [Ryan] So let me ask then, when we’re thinking of the application of this technology in certain industries for certain use cases, where have you seen kind of the most adoption, and where is it kind of, what is it really aimed at, I guess from a target use case standpoint? Obviously there are probably some use cases that this works really well in, in other use cases it has its limitations around. So, give us a couple examples of how this can be used in real world settings for a different industry use case that you all have focused on just so our audience really can understand kind of the power behind what you built.
– [Hatem] Sure, sure, I will relate to a couple, although there are many. Turns out, wireless power is for every IoT device. And, if we want to look at the whole market, like, Cisco predicts there will be 500 billion IoT devices by 2030, and that’s a published report by them. So, you’re talking about that, if we are gonna put batteries in those devices, humanity doesn’t build enough batteries for that many IoT devices, even if you disassemble every electric vehicle car battery and try to use those. So, we are really way short of that figure. And if that’s gonna happen, if IoT is gonna happen, it will require wireless power. Now, that means that we’re using, the people who need the technology are in every industry, manufacturing, building management, smart cities, retail stores, infrastructure, distribution- Consumer electronics. So, what I’ll do, I’ll talk about retail stores and home usage, and that gives you an idea about it. So, in a retail store, one of the most popular devices that we’re seeing around in supermarkets and other retailers is the advent of the electronic shelf labels, little price tags that are electronic devices that are showing the price of the goods as you walk around the store. Now, these require batteries today. And, in a retail store, let’s say one of the big retailers or supermarkets, you’re gonna have 30 to 50,000 of those devices, each one requiring three to six batteries. So, if you think of that, that’s 100,000 batteries in a store. Where now, and these retailers have like a, let’s say 5,000 stores across the United States, so you’re talking about suddenly you have 500 million batteries that will last two years. So every year they have to throw away 250 million batteries. And that becomes a major sustainability issue, but also, manpower. Turns out that the manpower you’re saving, somebody walking around, changing the price tag for the, whole milk today, doing it on electronic devices is easier because you, in the headquarters, they can press a button, change the price. But if you wanna change the batteries, you’re gonna spend the same amount of manpower just changing the batteries as if changing the paper price tag. So this is where wireless power can come in, and not only power all those devices and never having to worry about the battery in the whole store, but also enable other sensors like people sensors, temperature sensors, and refrigerators, even HVAC sensors in the environment that can save a ton of power. But the idea of having to put in, tens of thousands of devices sometimes around the store actually ends up with a heavy burden on cost or manpower. So, that’s a major solution that we have, not talking even about the back end of the store, the distribution centers, et cetera. Now, in the home, we have lots of devices, our phones, our wearables, and so on. What we really need is a system that you set and you don’t have to worry about it. So you don’t need one in every room, you need something that like Wi-Fi gives you good coverage. Although the power levels may be good enough for most of the IoT from room to room, to really get power enough for a smartphone or your wearables, you’d need to be in the same room. So you’d have strategically place the transmitters in your room and your house to get the benefit of it. But after that, how many times did you pick up your digital camera from the drawer and find out that you didn’t charge it before you going on a trip? Or other devices like a flashlight or something? The problem is that we have so many devices, we forget count of them. And we forget that we need to maintain these batteries. We’re not like an enterprise where we have people doing this for us. And, wireless power would really improve our life, from productivity, safety, health even, and comfort. So, wireless power will enable us to deploy many more devices. And I anticipate in our homes, we should reach about 500 devices in the next five to 10 years in our homes.
– [Ryan] So let me ask then, let’s just take this through the home example here, would the devices I have in my home have to be built to kind of accept this wireless power charging kind of technology? ‘Cause for instance, obviously you can’t take just any phone and put it on a wireless charger, right? It needs to have some kind of ability to, and the components inside to work with wireless charging. So with this, would that be the same kind of situation where all the devices I have that are maybe a couple years old that don’t have any wireless charging capabilities, they need to be, would this only work with devices that have some type of component inside that’s compatible with your technology or how does that work?
– [Hatem] Yeah, that’s an important point actually. If you think about, when you bought a Wi-Fi hub to your home, not everything connected to your Wi-Fi hub, you had to buy equipment with Wi-Fi. But, maybe it not many people remember, but 20, 25 years ago, you had to get a PCMCIA card to plug into your laptop so you can connect to Wi-Fi. And, so, when we think of adoption of wireless power, we’re looking at it in four stages. The first stage is the retro-fiting stage. So for example, we patented and are bringing to market with our partners what looks like AA batteries and AAA batteries, but are actually power receivers. So, what happens is that you can get your remote control, put these batteries and then put them in the smoke detectors and so on. And these will receive power and run that device so you never have to change their batteries again, that’s retro-fiting. The next stage is integration where the manufacturers would integrate the circuitry necessary for receiving wireless power into their devices. And that’s the integration stage. You’ll see more devices coming up that still have battery compartments, where if you don’t have a Cota transmitter. Cota is our wireless power system. Or you would have a device, or if you have it, then you get used to use it or use the batteries compartment. The third stage is what we call the transformation stage. Like remember when laptops, had integrated Wi-Fi? The next stage was the loss of the ethernet port and the modem port. And the laptops became thinner, they got more better forms. That’s the transformation stage that we anticipate is going to happen for all the devices that we have. So, your remote controls will become thinner, there’s no place for a AA battery, your home security system will be much less visible and et cetera. So all kinds of things that this is the… The last stage is what we call the innovation stage. What people start using the wireless power for devices, we never thought of could be possible. Like today’s, video doorbell or something like that, nobody thought of that. But because it’s possible, it became available. And the same thing will happen with wireless power.
– [Ryan] So let me ask you then, obviously I’m sure anyone who has devices in their house and gets tired of all the cords and plugs being plugged into the wall and just the general kind of pain that causes at times, not being able to access something because it’s, the cord’s only this long and they’re not sitting near it. People probably thought about this idea forever, and just like the general life like, God, I wish this was just charged while sitting next to me without having to do anything special. Why do you think now is, or I guess, why has it taken so long for us to get to the point where wireless power is something that’s, can be available to the market? Kinda like this kind of takes it to more of a high level, the current state, when we’re thinking about sustainability, sustainable power in IoT, we talked about on other episodes, things like solar power and how that can power devices, and energy harvesting and things like that. But as we’re talking more about this wireless power piece, why do you think it’s taken so long for us to get to the point where this is now possible?
– [Hatem] Yeah, yeah, absolutely. This is something I’ve been thinking about as well. I think there are multiple things that had to happen for this technology to be necessary. If you go 40 years ago, like, in ’70s and ’80s, who wants wireless power, what, are you gonna wirelessly power your fridge or your toaster? That’s not important. But what the first urgent was the need, we having many, many devices in our environment, having one or two doesn’t require us to invent something totally drastic like wireless power. The second one is that the technology needed to create it requires high frequency. So, we need to be adapt as a technology economy of being able to work with gigahertz and build systems that have hundreds or thousands of antennas at a cost that would be affordable. Now, 20, 25 years ago, we could just barely do this, but the cost would be so high. Would you buy a wireless power system for your home? It would cost 1/2 a million dollars. Not really. Now that the integration and circuit design and the cost of building and designing those have come down, we’re now able to provide that to them. And the final thing, is the invention itself, is the actually, the solution. So you may have heard that, concepts like beamforming and MIMO are very common in today’s technology. They’re basically come from radar systems and radars were invented 90 years ago in Britain, just prewar Britain. And, the MIMO is something that came up from data communication. Now, MIMO is not really that relevant for wireless power as it is more important for energy harvesting where you’re connecting microwatts not something that you would charge or would me be meaningful to most devices we use today. Very speciality uses. But if you go back to the radar systems, the radar requires you to send a beam from one place to another, then you need to know where both places are. You need to know where the receiver is, and if the receiver is moving or it’s an agile environment with of site devices and many devices, it becomes basically a snake nest of, all kinds of really thorny issues that you can’t really address. No one has been able to solve that. What we’ve done at the company is really come up with that invention through retro-directivity. And we’ve patented this in many ways to protect it. And this enables us to power truly devices that are in motion. Like literally you can throw the across the room and it would be powered in, when in flight, it’s that fast. So, we’ve solved and we work just in one line of sight for all kinds of devices and very similarly to what you can expect from line of sight. So we have solved these things that enabled us to do this. So this is the last thing, is that engineering has been trying to use the toolbox they’ve had for the last 70, 80 years and it hasn’t really panned out for wireless power, it needed a new invention. So three things, the invention, the cost and the need had to happen. And that really happened beyond the year 2000.
– [Ryan] And what’s been the perception that you’ve had to kind of work with and maybe deal with at times from the public when you talk to people about this potential and what it can possibly be? I mean, you get people out there that are complaining about having the signals from Wi-Fi routers and your phones causing issues and things personally. So, just outta curiosity, what kind of perception do you get when you’re talking about another type of wireless technology being deployed around people at a larger scale potentially, like what have you heard and what kind of, pushback do you usually get?
– [Hatem] Yeah, when you say wireless power, through the air, people are immediately worried about safety. And truly, correctly, so. This is not, something that we should scoff at. We’re also talking about potentially signals that are equivalent to 10 phones, not just one phone. So, people should be worried about this in general. What we have done is that the retro-directivity technology basically uses only the available paths, the paths that have no obstructive objects. So humans are great obstructing objects for radiofrequencies because we absorb them. So, what happens is that we have a receiver device that sends out this beacon signal, very low power signal that goes through the environment, 100 times a second. And, some of that signal would be absorbed by people which is not an issue, the beacon is 100 times lower in energy than a Bluetooth packet. So, but the signals that actually reach the transmitter, the transmitter learns where they came from. And basically uses the same path to send it back. And then it does that for the next beacon 100th of a second later. So, if the device moves, it’s constantly refreshing. If the people move, they’re constantly refreshing the system, you’re always in a bubble that’s protecting you from, because you’re an absorbative material. And that’s what makes our technology unique. In fact, I guess that the, this capability of being inherently safe has enabled us to certify our technology in 45 countries around the world. When I say certify, meaning that we reach, we’ve proven our technology to meet the same exposure levels as your Bluetooth headset. And that’s what makes what we do unique that no one has been able to. Yeah. So, that’s what makes our solution meaningful.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. So, as we kind of wrap up here, I wanted to ask you if, as we look into the future a little bit, where do you kind of see the future of sustainable power when it comes to IoT particularly going, kinda what does that look like? And then at the same time, is there a difference in potential for consumer space versus not like the enterprise, commercial, industrial type space?
– [Hatem] So, one of the areas that we’re working on is to, is establishing Cota as a wireless power standard, meaning all electronics will work in the same way. So the Wi-Fi you use at home ends up to be the same Wi-Fi you use at the office or in the factory. In fact, they’re compatible, mainly because that reduces the cost. So the same thing would happen for wireless power. But the device usage maybe the design of the devices maybe much more suitable or designed specifically for the use case. So, we apply for, you could have security cameras that are running on a multiwatt budget, and you may have home security system that are running at the tens of milliwatts budget. And that all is working together at the same time. The ability to have that means that we are gonna see a single standard helping us to use that our technology everywhere. So, expect your phone to charge at home and in the office and perhaps in the airplane or a factory, whatever you work.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I’m very interested to kind of see where this goes for sure. But yeah, anything else you wanna expand on there? ‘Cause I think it’s a really interesting topic to really think about how, where this goes and what this enables an IoT too. So like what things can we do use case wise that we weren’t able to accomplish before? I mean, that’s the same with the new connectivity technologies that come out, right? It’s different enablement by, when these new standards and these new technologies are available. This is the same situation. This is not just enabling things to be done better than they were before, but this is potentially enabling things that weren’t possible before.
– [Hatem] Yeah, here’s an example, at home, we have more devices that are powered than devices that are connected. For example, your Bluetooth, your toothbrush, right? If the toothbrush is a power device, but it’s not connected. Now, wireless power, the system that we’re bringing, this Cota technology, not only can it power the device, but it also connects the device because we now can tell the charge of the device, the battery, even how much you’re using it. So, not we, the system can know that. And then, that information can be passed to you. For example, parents can find out if their kids are brushing their teeth and so on. We’re going to connect everything way beyond what we thought of before. So, power means connectivity, and it’s the, if you think of the Maslow Hierarchy for devices, people think connectivity is the most important one. There’s actually a more important one which power. But when you establish power, you also establish connectivity and connectivity can lead now to data and so on. We’re a very data hungry society, and we’re gonna have to have many more devices. Now, other thing that Cisco idea of, not idea, the report about 500 billion IoT devices, means that most of these devices will be capacitor based, not battery based. And that reduces the amount of mining we have to do, or worrying about throwing all those batteries. So the sustainability is a major part of our story in that we are going to, not only solve your problems with wires and batteries, but actually help ours as well. Now, also reducing the amount of energy needed to run all these devices.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, yeah, it’s a very interesting space. I mean, like I said, we’ve had many conversations with other experts around the space that are focused on other areas of sustainable IoT and this is one I haven’t had a chance to talk a lot about because I haven’t met too many people focused on it. But I think the applications this is going to enable and the things is going to change is super interesting to kind of just follow and understand. And speaking of that, as a listener to this episode, if I wanna learn more, kind of follow along with everything going on at the company, what’s the best way to do that? And at the same time, is there anything new coming out in the next number of months that we should be keeping an eye out for, even if you can’t necessarily talk about it in detail?
– [Hatem] Absolutely. Our website is Ossia, it’s O-S-S-I-A.com. And, you can find a huge amount of information there. Some lots of papers we publish, lots of blogs and lots of material about the company. The solutions that we are providing is to get everybody up to speed. Now, the company is always actively working with many partners. Many, some of our partners are okay for us publishing their name and talking about what we do with them. But some of them want to keep this, they want to be the ones who announce that partnership.
– [Ryan] Okay. Fair enough.
– [Hatem] But we will publish whatever we can, basically because, helping the industry see this happening helps others to also start adopting the technology.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. Now, this is very fascinating stuff. I really appreciate you taking the time to kinda share with our audience what you have going on, and just insights in general to what this technology will enable for the IoT space as a whole. So, this has been a very enlightening conversation. I think our audience is getting a ton of value out of it. So thanks again for your time, I really appreciate it.
– [Hatem] Absolutely, now, there’s no future without wireless power. And that’s what we’re working on as well.
– [Ryan] I’ll tell you, I mean, I have tons of cords here, plugging things in, and, obviously I would love to have less of that. Especially at home, it would, save a ton of energy and a ton of time and I think a lot of people would agree. So, I’m very excited to see however this goes.
– [Hatem] This is the best wire organizer you’ll have.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, well, Hatem, thank you so much again for your time, I really appreciate it. And, look forward to kind of getting this out to our audience, it’s gonna be a great episode.
– [Hatem] Thank you, Ryan. Really great having the opportunity to talk to you.
– [Ryan] Thank you. All right, everyone, thanks again for watching that episode of the IoT For All Podcast, if you enjoyed the episode, please click the thumbs up button, subscribe to our channel, and be sure to hit the bell notification so you get the latest episodes as soon as they become available. Other than that, thanks again for watching. And we’ll see you next time.