Wearable Tech and IoT Pave the Way for a $300 Million Printed/Thin/Flexible Batteries Market by 2024

Form factor is becoming a major driver shaping innovation and transforming the energy storage industry globally. This is fueled by the emergence of new market categorizes such as wearable electronic devices and Internet of Things (IoT), which demand thinness and flexibility. These needs add a new force to current prevalent market drivers such as cost reduction and power/energy density increases.

IDTechEx forecasts that thin and flexible energy storage devices will create a market in excess of $300 million in 2024, at the device level. Importantly, IDTechEx also finds that the market will be in a state of rapid flux, undergoing major transformation, and in 2024 the composition of the market will look drastically different from its current condition. Major new markets will rise to prominence during the course of the coming decade, opening the door to new technologies and bringing with them new winners.

The brand new IDTechEx report Flexible, Printed and Thin Film Batteries 2015-2025 provides detailed technology assessments and benchmarking, ten-year market forecasts segmented by application and technology type, and detailed interview-based business intelligence and profiles on key players and large end-users from a variety of sectors.

The interest in thin, flexible and printed batteries is rising fast. This is despite the technology having commercially existed for more than ten years. The new interest is mainly driven by the emergence of new and attractive market categorizes such as wearable devices, consumer electronics and IoT.

This change in potential opportunity is transforming the business landscape. Whereas before the business landscape was mostly cluttered with small firms focused on disparate and niche applications, now many big players are developing their own technologies, striking up partnerships, or scooping up IP portfolios to gain a foothold in the supply chain for these emerging categorizes.

The technology and market landscape here however is complex. This is because thin and flexible energy storage devices can refer to a multitude of technologies including (1) thin lithium batteries, (2) thin film lithium polymer batteries, (3) curved lithium ion batteries, (4) thin flexible supercapacitors, and (5) zinc-based batteries. Each technology has a different package of attributes and is thus useful for different markets. Betting on the right solution is not straightforward.

At the same time, a diverse variety of non-overlapping target markets exist, further compounding the decision-making complexity. The main addressable markets include wearable devices, Internet of Things, RFID, consumer electronics, medical devices, skin patches, etc. It is self-evident that each segment needs different price points, form factors, power densities, lifetimes, processing conditions, etc, and thus the solution in each market will be different.

Wearable devices will come in many shapes and forms, but the largest cross-section of applications will require high energy sources therefore thin and flexible lithium batteries will have the highest potential. Skin patches are already a commercial reality. Here, printed zinc batteries have the highest potential although price needs to fall further.

LiPON-based thin lithium batteries are most promising for many medical diagnostic devices and back-up systems as these applications require stable, long life time, safe and high capacity sources. Coin cells will be hard to displace in the active and battery assisted passive RFID market unless there is a stringent need for laminarity such as in car number plates. Battery-powered smart cards are now an old idea but the technology is now ready to deploy en mass provided costs are further reduced. The risk here, though, is the mobile phones will first solve the problems that smart cards want to address.

In this study, IDTechEx has drawn upon at least 35 direct interviews and visits with key suppliers and large end-users from a variety of sectors, and built upon years of accumulated experience and market knowledge for the end-use applications such as active RFID, smart cards, skin patches, smart packaging and recently wearables. Our team working on this project is highly technical, enabling it to fully understand the merits and challenges of each technology.

IDTechEx provides a detailed assessment of all the key energy storage technologies that fall under the broad category of thin film, flexible or printed batteries. It provides a critical and quantitative analysis and benchmarks different solutions.

IDTechEx has developed detailed and granular market forecasts segmented by technology type as well as end-use applications. These forecasts are based on (a) primary information obtained through our direct interview programme with suppliers and end-users, attending conferences globally and also organising our own conferences on wearable technologies, RFID and printed electronics; and (b) a critical technical assessment of competing technologies.