Collaborating with Creative Minds at The Point

     Imagine a world in which you never had to look for an outlet.  You never had to dig in a bag of cables to look for just the right connection.  Imagine a world where your phone never died, you never missed a call, or you never had a system go down in the middle of a job. 

     Imagine that.

     Well, your imagination will not have to stretch too far, because wireless power is here. 

     On Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, some two dozen Central Ohio IFMA Chapter members visited The Point in Westerville to hear more about the unique set up at the Otterbein University facility, and more specifically, how NIKOLA Labs (which is also housed there) is tapping into energy harvesting in order to make life easier for facility managers. 

     According to Jim Dvorsky, Vice-president of Engineering at NIKOLA Labs, who addressed the IFMA crowd this month, “A world transformed by the Internet of Things will have trillion of connected devices.” 

     Because we currently live in a “smart” world, one connected via the internet, a myriad of devices are needed in order to carry out that connectivity.  In fact, we live in a world where systems of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people have the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.

     But all of that interaction necessitates power which often requires human contact in order to supply – or re-supply – that power on a regular basis. For example, with a battery. In the world of facility maintenance, information needs to be transmitted on a regular basis in order to make those systems work, said Dvorsky.  So, a significant amount of energy needs to be conveyed.  And due to an increase in information that needs to be transmitted, more energy is required.  While a battery may do the job, he said, it will eventually need replaced. 

    “So what we are doing instead is that we are going to essentially have a continuously operating, infinitely long-life device that does not need to have a replacement battery.”

     Dr. Chi-Chih Chen at OSU’s ElectroScience Laboratory first developed the technology of energy harvesting in 2012, Dvorsky explained.  The two partnered, and three years later, Nikola Labs officially licensed two patents from The Ohio State University pertaining to a breakthrough technology in radio frequency harvesting and wireless power transfer developed by Chen at OSU’s ElectroScience Laboratory.  Today, Nikola is a successful company which has developed the technology of converting radio frequency (RF) energy into direct current (DC) power. 

     In 2018, Nikola launched a product called the PfM Sensor System.  Wirelessly powered with a maintenance-free sensor network, PfM wirelessly, continuously and automatically monitors systems allowing facility managers to provide maintenance to systems on a regular basis rather than waiting for a part (or the whole system) to break down; helps predict maintenance schedules which reduces facility and equipment downtime; and gives data on a more regular basis which is both more cost effective and efficient. 

     Battery-less, maintenance-less environmental sensing is likely most appealing to facility managers.  Through NIKOLA’s system, monitors in a room/building measure temperature, humidity, light, pressure and carbon monoxide.  Wired or wi-fi data can also be transferred to the building’s HVAC for efficiency, and can remain wireless and maintenance free for 10 or more years.  Transponders, coupled with predictive sensors seamlessly speak to one another, making the system reliable and efficient, said Dvorsky.  Also, by providing a constant energy source, facility managers can monitor more often without the power drain.   

     Once Central Ohio IFMA Chapter members were finished learning about energy harvesting, they embarked on a tour of The Point, visiting NIKOLA’s offices located in the facility, along with its other offices and maker spaces.

     Otterbein has partnered with leading organizations from the private and public sectors in central Ohio to create The Point at Otterbein University, a new science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) Innovation Center that combines academics with the business and manufacturing needs of our community.  Located at 60 Collegeview Road, The Point and its STEAM Innovation Center is home to several resident companies and Otterbein academic departments, with lab space available to businesses and the broader community.  Otterbein hopes that the 62,000 square-foot center will help drive economic growth for the region through business development and job creation, while providing student experiences through internships, capstone projects and research initiatives.  The one-of-a-kind concept has been identified as a model of 21st century education. 

     Membership allows individuals to have access to a myriad of maker spaces including a metal shop, wood shop, design studio, rapid-prototyping, and advanced manufacturing. 

     For more information about the state-of-the-art facility, its partners, or taking advantage of rental space, visit