As we’ve become more and more dependent on smartphones, keeping our devices charged up has become increasingly important. “Low-battery anxiety” is a thing now, and according to some surveys, most of us have it. It’s spawned the popularity of portable chargers, phone charging cases, and charging stations.
That’s why a new innovation from Seattle startup Powerit is intriguing. The company has developed a charging device that is powered by air.
The idea sounds like a stretch, but GeekWire saw it in action at the company’s new office on the bottom floor of the Old Rainier Brewery in Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood.
The zinc-air chemistry behind the technology, which is activated by simply pulling off an adhesive peel, is not necessarily new. It’s already used in high-end hearing aids and by the military.
But Powerit has come up with a way that makes it easy to charge smartphones and other lithium ion-powered devices with a thin portable lightweight card-like product designed for one-time usage.
The company is initially targeting adventurers traveling to “off-the-grid” areas and people attending all-day events with little access to power, such as concerts.
Powerit CEO David Clark said the price for one charging device will be in the “single digit dollar” range and come down as production increases. The company has a larger vision to sell the device at convenience stores and as part of a subscription program.
“Its core advantage is that it’s always ready to go,” Clark said. “It never needs to be charged in advance.”
In that vein, it’s similar to solar-powered portable chargers. But those require direct sunlight, whereas Powerit’s product just needs air.
The device provides one full charge for the newest smartphones and comes with a USB-C, USB-Micro, or Lightning connector. It is built with recyclable plastic, some of which is harvested from the ocean, and a zero-emissions production process.
“It’s important to our customer that we fully embrace the environmentally-friendly and sustainable aspects, and really try to be a leader in that regard over time, particularly as it relates to taking plastic out of the ocean,” said Clark, who was previously a marketing executive at Seattle startup Blab.
Powerit has raised $4 million, including a recent $2 million round that closed earlier this month. David Bluhm, a serial entrepreneur who previously led companies such as Z2Live and DropForge Games, is helping back Powerit as chairman with other investors such as Varkain.
Bluhm said there’s nothing like it in the market. He said the charger will be a “no-brainer” purchasing decision for consumers.
“You won’t be forced to buy a $40 battery pack when you’re in a pinch running through the airport or at a concert or at a NASCAR race when you don’t know if your phone is going to make it, given what you’re doing,” he said.
With more than 3 billion smartphone users worldwide, the total addressable market is massive. Powerit also sees opportunity in selling to specific industries such as medical or military.
The company is exploring various revenue models, including selling advertising space on the device itself or partnering with event organizers. The device is “smart” and can collect data when connected to a smartphone.
“We have the ability to deliver an engaging experience,” Bluhm said.
Powerit has less than 10 employees working out of its HQ in Seattle that doubles as a test production lab. It partners with a larger scale manufacturer in Rochester, New York.