By Mari Silbey
Posting in Design
The idea of powering up mobile gadgets with no cords is tantalizing, but the applications could extend to household appliances or even business equipment.
The idea of wireless charging is tantalizing -- a vision of electronic devices that stay powered up without wall sockets, and gadget bags minus the eternal spill of bulky cords and cables.
The reality, however, is that wireless charging options today are still relatively expensive and support few of the real-world devices that consumers actually own.
Still, prices are falling, and research and development efforts are gaining momentum. Market research firm IHS predicts that almost 100 million devices that support wireless charging could be on the market by 2015, compared with the 5 million sold in 2012. Some mobile phone manufacturers are even distinguishing certain high-end models with wireless charging options. A few examples include the Lumia smartphone from Nokia, the Nexus 4 from LG Electronics, and the Droid DNA from Verizon Wireless and HTC.
And in the future, wireless charging technology won't be limited just to powering more mobile devices. It could have applications for large-scale appliances and could be embedded in surfaces ranging from car dashboards to household floors to kitchen countertops.
The Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) is the largest technology alliance in the wireless charging industry dedicated to advancing that vision although there are several other efforts brewing.
Established in late 2008, WPC has nearly 150 member companies including major mobile phone manufacturers and semiconductor companies. The consortium introduced the Qi inductive power standard in late 2010, and it is working to drive adoption - along with a healthy market for wireless power. The more companies that adopt Qi and produce interoperable products, the more opportunity there will be to develop the technology further, and extend it to new applications.
Since Qi was introduced, more than 30 companies have shipped mobile phones using its embedded wireless charging capabilities. Those phones are designed to power up on compatible charging mats and cradles, alarm clocks and music players, and the inside surfaces of some new car models. Toyota announced in December that the 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited will be the first car to offer wireless charging with a Qi-powered console included under the dashboard.
Bas Fransen, chief marketing officer and head of business development for ConvenientPower, a wireless power technology company, and active member of WPC, says the Qi standard currently supports devices needing five watts of power or less.
But an upcoming revision in the second quarter of 2013 will see Qi extended to support wireless charging up to a level of 15 watts, enough power to charge consumer tablets. The ability to charge laptop computers wirelessly isn't yet supported, but plans are on the near-term roadmap. Moreover, as the cost of the technology continues to fall, wireless charging will become an ever-more common device feature for mobile gadgets, like Bluetooth, or embedded cameras.
Charge your refrigerator wirelessly?
As the commercialization of early applications for mobile gadgets accelerates, some engineers are focused on the longer-term potential for wireless power.
Inductive charging, which is the technology used in the Qi standard, works with any material except for metal, meaning almost any surface at home or in a business space could be designed to deliver power. A marble countertop, for example, could be rigged to charge a wireless coffeemaker and a blender along with a variety of phones, tablets and computers as needed. Induction-based cooking means the countertop could also act as a stove, with no separate appliance required.
As wireless charging develops, the technology might even help reduce production costs for large appliances like kitchen refrigerators, Fransen says. That's because if power can be delivered wirelessly, then there's no need for a typical power converter, which adds to the price of manufacturing.
From a competitive standpoint, WPC is up against two other notable organizations: the Alliance for Wireless Power, which includes early industry evangelist Powermat, along with Samsung, Qualcomm and more; and the Power Matters Alliance, which is supported by Powermat as well, but also Google, AT&T and others. It's still early to consider this a platform war, but the industry may get to that point before long, particularly as the financial stakes increase and people get more excited about charging without plugging in.
For now, WPC leads the way, and its open platform theoretically offers the easiest path for companies planning new product development that supports wireless charging options. The next few years will show just how well WPC can deliver on new commercial products, and the promise of wireless charging for the future.
Image of Qi-enabled car console courtesy of Toyota
Jan 29, 2013
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Great information there, Thank you for the share. I thought of also sharing about my new CHOE Qi Wireless Charger for Galaxy S4 I9500 (Wireless Charging Pad and Wireless Charging Receiver Included) which I bought at Amazon for $32.99 Works with any Qi-enabled device through an adapter or an embedded chip Power Source: AC Adaptor plugs into charging pad Freedom of Placement: No annoying magnets to align or secret spots to find in order to charge your device. The wireless charging pad is Qi standard, you can charge any Qi-enabled device today, tomorrow and beyond. Light indicator to show charging status. It works well with Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone.
I too am deeply sceptical about the power efficiency of these things. It seems a great irony that companies like Nokia who have jumped on the green bandwaggon by expounding the (very good) power efficiency and low stand-by current of their latest plug-in chargers, are now marketing their new phones with wireless charging. Having worked on near Field Communications (which uses the same concept), I know that remote power transfer is a complex business with some very fine tuning required to make it work well. Any power-trasfer technology needs to aim at 100% efficiency as it's ultimate goal. Moving from something which works really well, to a fundamentally variable approach is flawed thinking, despite the fact that the marketeers love it. Also this is a world of dwindling resources, where what and how we build things has a deep impact on the future our children will face . - How can it possibly be seen that the increased embodied energy and raw materials in a large wireless power package can possibly be a step in the right direction? If it begins to be widely utilized for high power transfer then we also have a minefield of issues open up regarding long-term safety of ELF or LF magnetic fields. If I were the wearer of a pacemaker I think I'd really be getting quite worried.
You are supposed to be all about smart use of resources but I notice a total lack of numbers comparing wired and wireless charging. What are the losses in each? Which method will fully charge a device more quickly and with the least power usage?
It's a bit of a gimmick just now, esp. as phone manufacturers have yet to even deliver on their promise to make Micro USB a global connection standard, to stop the proliferation of incompatible chargers and peripherals.
Qi devices have been commonly available for over 1 year in Japan, the chargers have been embedded in home appliance including microwave oven, tv set top box, video recorder, HI-fi, clock you name it they have it. Near half of the andriod device have Qi batteries in them for charging by placing them on your microwave in the kitchen. Sure is going to a hit in the next few years in the western world( esp if they have it in the iphone. I have examine one of these batteries on my phone, the charging coil is
I think when and if inductive power gets cheap enough to embed in our roadways, our cars, trucks, buses, transit and rail will achieve maximum energy efficiency, especially if coupled with mag-lev propulsion. Our electric vehicles will not need huge (potentially dangerous) batteries. If both vehicles and drivers had their own separate RFID chips (embedded in the vehicle and in a key or driver's license), vehicles could be tracked for electric usage and for law enforcement and drivers could be monitored by law enforcement. Both a vehicle RFID and a driver's RFID would have to be verified before dispensing electricity to the vehicle. In 2009, I published a web page detailing these thoughts with links to a Bombardier Transportation link to a video detailing mass trans using inductive power (see items 9, 10 and 11 of my web page): http://www.techok.org/
Wireless electricity has been around for millions of years... It's called lightening and it can be extremely dangerous. I laugh when people talk about wireless charging because it's not a good idea. The type of power required for anything other than a small battery powered device can be extremely dangerous. And our bodies are electrical after all. To think of high power/high amp electricity coming through a counter top is a scary thought. Sure it works ok for those small battery powered devices, but good luck with the large power hungry appliances, it will never work. And if someone is suggesting that we put batteries in a large appliance I have to laugh even harder. We are quite a ways away from developing a decent battery... Just ask Boeing if you need a good reality check.
Great, after all the concern about the phantom loads presented to our power grid by millions of wall cubes and electronics in sleep mode, now the industry is trying to up the ante by having constantly available inductive power transfer devices. The energy wasted and pollution/greenhouse gas has the potential to be tremendous.
Next step can (will) be charched or decharched on a distance........? Like N. Tesla predicted, Sorry for the delay in innovation for the consumer...
All batteries require far more electricity to charge them then they can store and deliver... Since we are nowhere near perfecting a decent superconductor, this is not going to change anytime soon. So wireless charging is not efficient nor will it be for a long, long, long time. The price of lead keep rising due to the demand for lead acid batteries and we just don't have the resources for a world run on batteries for anything but small devices.
It's called a sonicare... And I still don't think people grasp this technology... It's wireless battery charging and I still don't think we have the battery technology to run anything big.
all other time they use only a fraction of the drow. so yeah, if you replace 10 plugin cubes that use the power all the time with one. it works out fust fine.
yea "a fraction of the drow" can be a lot of energy times how much is being used. The usual wired cords can be easily removed and with heavy machinery im pretty sure you would still need the plugin tubes to work 5 different power stations at once
Even if the power wasted from the combination of standby power consumption and coupling losses is small, this concept only makes sense for small portable devices like cell phones. Why would you even want to hook up a refrigerator this way? Are you planning to roll it from room to room? And nothing was said about possible stray electromagnetic fields and their health effects. There's lots of preliminary work suggesting that heavy cell phone users may develop more brain cancers next to the area of highest exposure. This looks like technology over-reach, like lots of current gee-whiz gadgets that simple do something for which there is little demand in order to justify the next must-have upgrade cycle. I.e. it's about profits more than needs.
My testing with a KillaWatt device shows zero power usage for all my newer cellphone and external disk drive power paks. This is for the power paks that are light in weight, no transformer. Even when a phone is connected when it reaches full charge the power consumption goes to zero. Sure there must be some tiny consumption. I'll have to try all the ones I have together on the KillaWatt.
I have no idea what the energy efficiency would be, but I suspect wired charging would be more efficient in delivering the charge to a device than wireless. If that is the case, than wireless charging is worrisome via-a-vis carbon foot print and energy costs.