The Alan Shapiro Entrepreneurial Lecture was created as an opportunity for distinguished speakers to share their experiences as entrepreneurial leaders and inspire students and alumni to push the boundaries of what is possible and take risks in business. This main speaker for the lecture this year was Eric Giler, CEO of WiTricity.
Giler started a telecommunications company in the 1980s. After retiring in 2005, his former mentor contacted him about becoming involved with a group of scientists who had discovered how to transfer electricity without wires. Giler jumped at the chance and became the CEO of WiTricity.
Giler explained that if a business or product can get through three critiques – “That’s impossible,” “Anybody can do that” and “Nobody will buy that” – then it can have success. WiTricity seems to be there – it can be done, not anyone can do it and it definitely appears the market of people interested in this technology is strong.
Wireless transfer of electricity was something that had eluded scientists for years, to the point that many thought it was impossible. Professor Marin Soljacic from MIT figured it out when his wife’s phone would beep as it was about to die and he postulated about how there must be electricity near it, and it should be able to tap into that electricity. His lab’s first success was the powering of a 60 watt light bulb safely and efficiently from a distance of two meters.
Giler explained that WiTricity technology is completely safe – safer to use than a cell phone or an x-ray. It does not affect other things because it creates something to give off a very specific frequency and something to pick up that frequency.
WiTricity technology has a number of benefits over traditional wired electricity. Multiple devices can be powered by a single source and devices can have an incredibly extended wireless range with resonant repeaters, objects which increase the length that the source can power.
Furthermore, “new applications are limited only by one’s imagination.” The company is aiming to go broad, and make things almost everyone could use. Additionally, it has defense applications to aid soldiers who currently carry many batteries on their helmets; this technology could significantly lower the weight of what they carry. It would even be possible, hypothetically, to put the sources under roads in order to charge cars.
The lecture concluded with Giler taking a few questions from the audience. Asked when this technology would be available to the average citizen, Giler responded that it will likely only be two years until their developments with electric cars are released, and some commercial products, like wireless phone chargers, may even be released by the end of 2013. Another question inquired if WiTricity had the potential to make a truly wireless car and how quick the technology works. Giler explained that there are physical limitations, however the largest system they are working on could run a bus.
Thanks to the Shapiro family for bringing such an inspirational and successful business leader to Tufts.