By Mari Silbey
Posting in Design
It's not about battery life. Powermat is building smarter surfaces.
In Ran Poliakine's home, everything in the kitchen is wireless: not wirelessly connected to the Internet, but powered wirelessly through inductive surfaces that charge everything from the mixer to the coffee maker.
If that sounds futuristic, it is. But as the CEO of Powermat Technologies, the wireless charging company, Poliakine believes the future of wireless power is closer than many people think. He uses this analogy: wireless charging is like Wi-Fi connectivity. "Ten to 15 years ago, you had to connect to the phone line.... Today you expect to get Wi-Fi ... regardless of the way it's going to get there. You just expect it to be there," he notes.
In the future, it will be the same with wireless charging, Poliakine believes.
Since 2006, when the company was founded, Powermat's vision has been about creating smarter surfaces, not gadgets or gadget accessories. To achieve that vision, however, Powermat has started by developing cases and adapters for mobile devices that enable them to work with the technology in the company's wireless charging mats.
It has been a slow process. For one thing, there are many different types of mobile phones, and Powermat has had to develop unique cases and battery packs to support at least the most popular models. For another, as the technology works today, customers not only must buy and carry a new mobile attachment, they need a Powermat mat that must be plugged in somewhere. Cost and inconvenience have hindered adoption. A mat capable of charging three devices sells for about $70; a smartphone case starts at about $25.
Luckily, the situation is changing on both fronts.
In a major milestone, AT&T has asked device suppliers to integrate wireless charging technology into their phones by 2014. That means people won't need a special case, battery pack, or adapter to charge their phones with Powermat's inductive charging technology.
As far as surfaces are concerned, Powermat has forged a number of new partnerships designed to bring its technology to surface locations that people already use. "This is a very, very strategic decision that we've made ... that in order to provide freedom for people with smartphones, you need surfaces that give you more than just [a place to hold your] coffee cup," Poliakine says.
To that end, Powermat has signed deals with retail chains including Starbucks and McDonalds to install charging surfaces in their restaurants. It is allied with major public arenas such as Madison Square Garden, and it also works directly with chemical company DuPont (maker of countertops like the one pictured above), and with the major consumer products manufacturer, Procter & Gamble.
More recently, Powermat announced an agreement with General Motors to include embedded charging technology in select GM cars by 2014.
There are still more challenges to overcome. In particular, there are multiple associations competing to develop a wireless charging standard. Powermat is part of the Power Matters Alliance (PMA); that organization is up against the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), which introduced its own inductive power standard called Qi in 2010.
"We're seeing that there is a huge interest in the wireless power," Poliakine says. "We see different alliances that are being formed, and I think it's very natural."
Even though the competition is real, Poliakine believes current wireless charging standards will eventually merge. And in the meantime, momentum behind wireless charging continues to build.
Poliakine offers one more analogy. A car gives you freedom, because you can fill it up at any gas station in order to keep driving. A smartphone is the same because it gives you access to communication as long as you keep the battery charged. If there are places to charge the battery easily everywhere you go, then your phone can keep going forever.
"This is freedom," Poliakine says.
Freedom is what wireless charging promises, and it's what Powermat plans to deliver.
(Image courtesy of Powermat)
Sep 16, 2013
When what;'s being proffered isn't actually engineering/science-wise smart, can we just please refrain from the use of "smart" to pump up the vacuous credibility of an idea? Please.
Cats love counters and small animals in cages or fish are on these surfaces, how safe is it for them ?
This is as old as Heinrich Hertz, and as inefficient as one can imagine. Mobile devices in the US alone now require 1GW of electrical power 24/7 every day of the year, just to power them and their network-support systems. This will triple to 3 billion watts, 24/7 in a couple of years. This equals 3 of the largest nuclear reactors, or 4 of the largest coal plants. Don't bother to ask about solar/wind. Where were the SmartPlanet editors? Why doesn't the author understand? This is irresponsible writing at a critical time in human history. It's not "Smart". This simply adds waste.
These schemes are horribly inefficient. I know it because i was involved for a while with the technology. there is inductive coupling and capacitive. Inductive is the one discussed here. an alternating magnetic field is generated. the efficacy depends on the accurate placement of the receiving device. mods designed to allow sloppy placement reduce efficiency and increase complexity. Even so, if a table top or a car wastes 10 watts, it's not a big deal until 10 watts is a big deal.
Having the charging surface always on, and poor coupling can waste a lot of power. Has anyone looked into this?
Is there any health effect from lengthy proximity to charged surfaces like these? If they're table tops, the presumption is you'll be leaning over them for stretches of time. Just wondered.
Just what is the efficiency of these things? After all, almost daily on SmartPlanet we get an endless stream of energy doom-mongering articles lamenting the waste inherent in the most simple of things. Do the carbon police know about this yet?
I'm sure we're all being scrambled (dna, etc), but there might be more of the Navy shooter types who 'perceive' the effects; raised blood pressure, anxiety, and other ailments they can attribute to EMFs. The complaints about smart meters aren't unfounded. Some of us experience physical evidences at a much higher level than the masses. Who knows what is normal? Every house is wired and equipped differently, so the ambient effects will differ.