Wireless charging may about to become a reality
Anil M Prabhu
Over the past few years, wires have been cut for everything from internet connections to earphones – but still, almost every device needs to be plugged in at least once a day to charge. That may be about to change.
At CES this year, Dell unveiled the Latitude 7285, a convertible two-in–one Windows 10 computer that gets its power from a desktop wireless charging pad, and Ford announced it would be conducting tests of wireless vehicle charging. But it was Energous that revealed the most interesting development.
The four-year-old company, a CES regular, had something to show for its WattUp wireless system, which beams power to devices using radio frequencies, rather than the magnetic induction used in the contactless charging of certain smartphones of the past few years. Magnetic induction can’t be used over larger distances, radio frequencies potentially can.
Energous had six companies showing off devices with WattUp technology powering them. From Bluetooth trackers, hearing aids and styluses, to a small module you can plug into other things, WattUp’s tentative steps into the real world with products you may actually be able to buy are encouraging with one small caveat: it only works over a few centimeters.
Energous claims that these devices will be able to “seamlessly transition from being charged by small, contact-based, portable transmitters, to forthcoming larger transmitters that offer to charge at-a-distance of up to 15 feet (4.6m)”.
How long before that switch to power at a distance greater than a few centimetres takes is unknown, but one of the WattUp devices is capable of providing 700mAh of power to any micro USB port, a level of power greater than the minimum expected of traditional USB supplied power from a computer.
While 700mAh is certainly not enough to power for something large, yet, it should be easily capable of powering portable devices and the burgeoning Internet of Things ecosystem instead of requiring a USB cable or replaceable battery.
Energous also signed an undisclosed deal last year to supply its wireless power system to “one of the largest consumer electronic companies in the world” according to the Energous chief executive, Steve Rizzone, talking to the Verge. The company also claimed that its technology was going through “Apple compliance testing” suggesting that it might have inked a deal with the Cupertino-based company.
Wireless power is still in its infancy, but CES 2017 has marked a significant milestone for the technology. To leap out of the pages of science fiction and into the real world products you might actually buy will need a large electronics firm to put the technology into its products. A company such as Apple or Samsung, which was an early adopter of wireless charging technology, may just be the catalyst needed to make it happen.
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