A growing number of smartphones are shipping with NFC, or Near Field Communication technology. This lets you send information between devices by tapping them together. For example you can share a photo with a friend or make a mobile payment from a digital wallet app.
But a team of researchers is showing off a way you can transmit more than just data — you can also transmit power.
For instance, you could pair a low-power E Ink display with your smartphone and send across pictures and enough power to flip through a few of those images.
This lets you use the E Ink screen as a secondary, low-power display for your smartphone. E Ink only uses power when you refresh the screen, so you only need a tiny bit of power to display an image and then it will can be displayed indefinitely without any additional power.
So if you have directions, a map, phone number, or a photo that you want to be able to look at continuously without running down your smartphone battery, you can tap the phone against the E Ink screen to quickly charge the secondary display and then transfer a screenshot. Then you can slide your phone back in your pocket while the phone number, address, or other data stays on the screen.
You can’t transmit a lot of energy over an NFC connection this way, so you’re not exactly going to wirelessly charge your iPod touch using this kind of setup. But it’s an interesting demo of how NFC, E Ink, and smartphones can work together.
The demo is courtesy of a team at Intel, the University of Massachussetts and the University of Washington.