NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, England — My name is Simon Barker and I am an electronics entrepreneur. Or at least I want to be.
I am 22 years old. I got my B.Eng. in electrical and electronic engineering from Newcastle University in the north of England in 2008 and now I am studying for a Ph.D. in energy harvesting at the same place. I am due to complete it in 2011.
Among other things I love mountain biking, climbing, running and squash. Testament to this I was struggling with stairs the other week as I had taken part in the annual Keswick-to-Barrow challenge the previous weekend, a 40-mile walk which was fantastic fun and a great way to spend a Saturday. Oh and I am not a perpetual student. I have done a few days work in my life, but not many. I have worked serving behind bars and in a patent translation and filing office.
Now that this brief introduction is done, I should explain why I'm here and why I am interested in energy harvesting and wireless sensor networks.
I was drawn to energy harvesting by the total novelty of the idea. I was raised in a house where small electrical items needing batteries were commonplace and as far as I was concerned if they ran out you spent twenty minutes hunting around for some replacements. Then I discovered the field of energy harvesting, this dynamic, exciting and — more importantly — growing field that promises to power small electrical items from otherwise wasted energy.
Two years ago I had never heard about the piezoelectric effect, the thermoelectric effect or the fact that Faraday's law is still useful when the magnets are tiny and the wire is thinner than s human hair! Obviously I knew about solar cells and wind farms but those monstrous power levels are measured in megawatts, not milli- or microwatts. The more I've learnt about energy harvesting the more interesting the field has become to me, to the point where I am seriously pursuing the idea of starting my own company to somehow build on this technology.
That's why I am here really. I have begun heading down this path of being an entrepreneurial student and I am fortunate enough to have been offered this column in which to share my thoughts and experiences. Hopefully I'll be able to provide some interesting insights into the world of wireless sensor networks, developing a business idea and making the tricky transition from research to commercialization as and when that time comes.