Written as editor of the New Statesman’s NS Tech and first published here.
You might have guessed that a tech startup led by a lord, and one who used to be science and innovation minister in the UK government, could be one to watch.
Drayson Technologies, named after its CEO Lord Paul Drayson, is certainly more than its rather innocuous name suggests.
The six-month-old startup is using our love of devices to power the “third wave of internet connectivity”. That’s the Internet of Everything, to the uninitiated.
And it’s is actually deploying 60-year-old technology to do it.
“Our energy consumption, because of all our connected devices, is going up,” Drayson tells NS Tech. “That’s in spite of the fact that the efficiency of microprocessors is getting better.
“But manufacturers are recognising how important energy is – every joule has to be provided by a battery, which takes up precious space, and frankly there’s not even enough lithium left to power all of these batteries.”
Today, there’s unused energy leaking from the radio wavebands that power our cellular networks – particularly those that are less heavily used today, like our old pal 2G – as well as those that make Wi-Fi work.
Drayson’s tech, Freevolt, uses “radio frequency harvesting technology” to capture and recycle that waste – which then powers other connected devices, namely sensors, beacons and wearables measuring anything from temperature to movement.
Because these devices are now being powered by waste energy, you don’t have to recharge them – particularly good if you’re deploying sensors in hard-to-reach places.
The pilot, powered by the company’s CleanSpace tag, has created an IoT network that measures air pollution, something that’s increasingly concerning for individuals, employers and cities alike.
“Technology does offer, for the first time in humankind’s history, a genuine opportunity to connect people and things – so you can show that collective action makes a difference, Drayson says. “That’s what excites me.”
This is also a fine example of a good British idea, as it came out of Imperial College, has been designed in London and is manufactured in the UK.
But because the company started with the principle that this has to work globally – to scale, as the startups call it – it’s designed to global standards and can work anywhere. That’s why the company has pretty quickly been able to start rolling out internationally.
“Most business people will have been aware that this third wave was coming and wondering how it’s going to affect their business,” Drayson adds. “That’s why we’re working directly with them yo explore how this is relevant for their business, in anything from transport to consumer products.”
The £8m cash, which is part of £26m raised to date, will be used to further develop and commercialise Freevolt.