Walmart is replacing the labels on its shelves with small screens

Walmart, like most major retailers, is replacing the labels on its shelves with small electronic screens, so it can change prices and offer promotions quickly and cheaply. But the switch from paper to screens has created another problem, one that affects all connected devices: they need power. The number of smart devices, such as speakers and lights in homes, or sensors and screens in factories, shops and warehouses, is projected to surpass 42 billion by 2025, each requiring its own battery or source of power… In response, start-ups are using emerging technology to remove the requirement for batteries altogether, or kill the need for them to be replaced. Walmart has been working with Ossia, a Washington-based company that has developed “distance charging” technology it calls Cota — or Charging Over The Air. Ossia sends radio frequency power from a central transmitter to multiple devices — including electronic shelf labels each equipped with a small receiver — without any direct contact to cables or a charging pad. The Cota Tile, for example, transmits 20 watts. Devices around a metre away receive 6 watts, at two metres that falls to about 2 to 3 watts. Electronic shelf screens, which require little power, were an obvious first application to test. 

Patrick McGee