The Future Is Now: David Su of Atmosic Technologies On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

First, it’s critical not to underestimate the effort of getting things done: building a team, developing products, engaging customers and ramping revenue. Everything always takes longer than you wish. Getting things just right takes patience, but it’s essential to the success of any business.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Su.

David brings to Atmosic over 30 years of engineering expertise with an extensive wireless background, as his past teams’ radio designs have brought billions of successful devices to market. He was on the early engineering team at Atheros, VP Analog/RF Engineering, and VP Engineering with Qualcomm following the 2011 acquisition of Atheros. David earned a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and has been a Consulting Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford. David is an IEEE Fellow.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Before Atmosic, I worked in a variety of engineering roles at Qualcomm and Atheros Communications. At those companies I was fortunate to work with many talented and capable people, several of whom would later become part of the Atmosic team. As IoT devices were becoming more and more popular, we saw an important opportunity to rethink how connected devices are powered, and imagine a battery-free IoT. Atmosic was founded with that idea, to develop solutions that can extend the battery life of IoT devices and, in some cases, replace batteries entirely. With billions of batteries being consumed every year, solutions that extend battery life can make a meaningful impact.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Atmosic has developed three foundational technologies that significantly lower energy consumption for connected devices: Lowest Power Radio, On-demand Wake-up, and Managed Energy Harvesting. With our Lowest Power Radio and On-demand Wake-Up technologies, Atmosic’s system-on-chips (SoCs) enable a 10X to 100X reduction in power consumption compared to competitor solutions. By reducing power utilization to such a low level, connected devices can take advantage of energy harvested from ambient sources — such as photovoltaic (light), RF power, kinetic and thermal energy — to power them. The combination of these three technologies, used in conjunction with Bluetooth 5 wireless connectivity, can enable batteries to last forever, or even replace the need for batteries in some cases.

How do you think this might change the world?

The growth of the IoT has created a skyrocketing demand for batteries. With the ubiquitous adoption of wireless connectivity, it’s difficult to require connected devices to be tethered to a power cord. As a result, billions of connected devices today are powered by disposable batteries. Every year, over three billion batteries are thrown away in the U.S. alone.

Atmosic’s technology can make a difference in reducing the industry’s reliance on batteries by lowering the energy consumption of wireless devices. Our technology is ideal for many applications, including consumer electronics, smart home devices, healthcare devices and even industrial, enterprise, smart city and automotive applications where battery life is important. By avoiding frequent battery replacement or charging, we can cut down the amount of times that connected devices are offline for maintenance.

Technology adoption is typically a journey. The widespread adoption of wireless connectivity has, in part, lead to the growth of battery-operated devices. Imagine the next stage of the technology adoption with ultra-low power wireless technology combined with energy harvesting that can avoid frequent battery changes. We can reduce the environmental impact of disposed batteries, the cost of ownership and the maintenance burden of connected devices.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

While connected devices make our lives better in so many ways, privacy is one area that consumers should continue to think carefully about. Like most technology innovations, as consumers we should educate ourselves about what types of data their devices are collecting, and learn how to adjust their privacy settings based on their specific preferences. Of course, the Bluetooth-SIG has been continuously enhancing Bluetooth technology to maintain privacy through robust security protocols.

Was there a “tipping point” that guided you to energy harvesting? Can you tell us that story?

The key tipping point for energy harvesting is the technical feasibility of energy harvesting. As devices become more power efficient — going from watts to microwatts in terms of power consumption — a small amount of harvested energy can significantly extend the battery life of devices and even allow for battery-free operation in certain cases. One application that has embraced energy harvesting because of its low power consumption is handheld calculators. Over the past 10 years or so, solar-powered calculators have dominated the market without requiring batteries at all. It’s really exciting! The feasibility of battery-free solar calculators is primarily due to the low power consumption that can be easily offset by a small photovoltaic cell. With Atmosic’s low power technology, it is now possible to power all sorts of connected devices — from beacons to sensors, smart watches and beyond — with energy harvesting since the power consumption of these devices is extremely low.

What do you need to lead energy harvesting to widespread adoption?

The key to widespread adoption of energy harvesting, or any technology innovation, is market acceptance — the openness of the market to embrace energy harvesting technology to reduce cost of ownership and reduce the negative environmental impact of disposed batteries. It is gratifying to see consumers’ increased awareness of the longer-term ownership costs associated with purchases. We are willing to pay more for LED light bulbs that consume less energy. Additionally, we are willing to choose devices with longer battery life to avoid the burden and hidden cost of battery replacement. It’s now time for all of us — consumers everywhere — to consider how a device is powered before purchasing it. Manufacturers are also increasingly interested in solutions that could help solve these problems.

Atmosic is working with many companies that are designing innovative connected devices that use energy harvesting to extend battery life. As awareness of these energy harvesting products grows, I believe consumer demand will grow in tandem.

What have you been doing to share this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing or teaching strategies?

Our team is focused on engaging with partners, customers and industry professionals that understand our value proposition. We also spend time with the media — which can help tell our story — and analysts who have a keen sense of the market and how energy harvesting can complement the growth of IoT. We are also active on social media, distributing content about Atmosic, the market and relevant use cases where energy harvesting has proven to be successful. Our key message is about generating overall awareness of energy harvesting, and its lifelong impact on the environment and the future of the IoT.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Absolutely. My experience at Atheros and Atmosic has really reinforced the belief about how important it is to have an incredible team by your side. At Atheros, I joined a five-person company that eventually grew to over 1500 people. As an early employee, I had a front-row seat witnessing how the company grew and prospered. This experience taught me the importance of the team to achieve success.

At Atmosic, we are focused on looking for team members with an insatiable curiosity to learn and solve problems, in addition to individuals that really had a team mindset. I am so grateful for the amazing Atmosic team who has worked so hard to turn a vision into reality. Of course, we are very thankful for the advisors and investors who have dedicated their efforts in helping Atmosic to reach its full potential, along with our customers and partners who share our vision for a battery-free IoT.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

At the core of our business, we are laser-focused on solving today’s battery challenge. Just think about your home and how many connected devices you have currently — it’s likely more than you can remember offhand. Perhaps it’s your battery-powered TV remote, or your connected doorbell or smart lock. I promise you, it’s a lot of devices. We are excited about how we can help the environment by reducing the dependence on batteries from the smart home to smart cities and beyond. We also want to help our industrial customers to be able to scale their IoT deployments without the challenge of maintaining fleets of battery-operated devices.

What are your “5 Several things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

First, it’s critical not to underestimate the effort of getting things done: building a team, developing products, engaging customers and ramping revenue. Everything always takes longer than you wish. Getting things just right takes patience, but it’s essential to the success of any business.

Second, while it is important to have expertise in focus areas, it’s important to expand your knowledge base to appreciate the different parts of a business. For engineers who want to become entrepreneurs, some understanding of sales and finance is critical.

Third, remember that no one person can be the expert in everything, so it’s important to always look for opportunities to collaborate and learn from your peers, advisors and team members. It is important to leverage the expertise of the team.

Fourth, ground what you are doing in reality but be willing to adapt. Striking the right balance between being adaptive and perseverant is not always easy. We are fortunate to have the help of great advisors and an experienced team.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I’d like to inspire individuals and companies to focus more on sustainability. In particular, one aspect of sustainability that isn’t talked about enough is the total cost of ownership. It’s important to not only consider the upfront cost of a decision or purchase, but also evaluate the future impact. One example I’ve seen is how companies that embraced IoT deployments early on didn’t think much about the future costs of replacing batteries in devices, along with the impact on future generations as landfills have filled up with batteries. LED lights are another great example; while the upfront price is higher, LEDs last longer and have very low power consumption resulting in better energy savings than traditional bulbs. If we can all think about sustainability in both the short-term and long-term, we can better protect the world for generations to come.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It’s not so much a quote as an ethic we apply to our way of thinking. Don’t get stuck with “the way you’ve always done it.” Ask yourself: “what’s possible,” and then do what’s necessary to make the possibility a reality. To boil that down into a motto, I live by the idea that “Whatever is possible can be brought into reality.”

Some very well-known venture capitalists (VCs) read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

Atmosic Technologies is a company with a bold vision. Our award-winning lowest-power Bluetooth and controlled energy harvesting technologies are revolutionizing the IoT industry and making it more sustainable — driving the battery-free IoT revolution. As a company, we are focus on addressing wireless connectivity for IoT applications with extended battery or be battery free. Atmosic’s low-power technology is being implemented in a wide variety of devices in consumer, commercial and industrial settings across the globe.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m always looking to connect with customers, partners, brands and individuals eager to join us on our quest for battery-free IoT. You can find me on LinkedIn, and I encourage everyone to follow Atmosic on Twitter @Atmosic or on Linkedin.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

The Future Is Now: David Su of Atmosic Technologies On How Their Technological Innovation Will… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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