By Scott Meacham
The pandemic’s immediate and expected after-effect on the traditional energy sectors of oil and gas is harsh. However, the outlook is different for battery solutions based on advanced materials.
Paige Johnson, founder and CEO of Tulsa-based Ten-Nine Technologies, is a leader in this expanding segment on the continuum of energy alternatives. Johnson invented the technology for a new class of non-toxic nanomaterials with energy equivalence to fossil fuels. Ten-Nine Technologies initial application is a battery solution that uses the nanomaterials and traditional battery materials to double battery life.
“For the battery market writ large,” she said, “the pandemic effect will only increase the demand for advanced batteries.”
First, there is the Internet of Things (IoT). Pre-pandemic, McKinsey & Company reported that IOT (Internet of Things) devices were projected to triple from 2018 to 2023. The pandemic effects that have altered the daily lives of people and the daily usage of places—telecommuting, social distancing, fewer people on site in offices, warehouses, stores, and other operating locations—will accelerate the need for sensors and monitoring applications, Johnson says, boosting the requirement for small, cost-effective batteries that produce energy for a very long time.
“Any time you have space that is occupied less of the time or where people don’t need to be present,” Johnson said, “there will be a greater need for remote monitoring. It is a way for businesses to reduce interaction. Sensor applications will drive the workplace of the future.”
Johnson calls out another after-effect of the pandemic—one that directly impacts business development, and not in a positive way—the cancellation of scientific and industry conferences, which, she observes, is not limited to the advanced battery market, but to high technology startups of all types.
“Scientific and industry conferences are a main networking vector for companies like ours. They have been the best way to meet new people, partners, and potential customers. From a business development perspective, it has all gone dark,” she said.
Johnson is convinced this is a permanent change. “These events may be among those things that people had seen as essential, but now that they are gone, are recognized as not needed as much after all,” she said. “That leaves a gap for young companies with new technologies that we are going to have to solve a different way.”
Another positive pandemic push on the battery market is the follow-on effect of more people spending more time at home and using electronic devices more and longer for work and socializing with family and friends.
“Batteries power all those headsets, iPads, tablets, and laptops we are using at home. This is true for people of all ages. Everyone is spending more time with our screens, on Zoom calls, Facetime, watching cartoons and documentaries,” Johnson said. “Our work and social interactions are being powered by batteries.”
Johnson’s point of view is striking. She speaks to the intersection of advanced technology and the way we live our lives. Consider this vision. Battery power that is as ubiquitous as electricity.
Oklahoma is all about energy– in our people, in our resources, and in new technologies that power innovation. Like Paige Johnson, let’s add some focus to post-pandemic possibilities.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E, Inc, receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.