Milestones Reached on the Road to Wireless Charging

Carl Weinschenk
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Mobile Development Trends for 2014

Certain inconveniences are so engrained in our day-to-day existences that we hardly recognize how annoying they are until they disappear. Using cables to charge mobile devices is done by rote. It seems so normal to us that forgotten and lost cords and the rat’s nest of orphan cords sitting in desk drawers, bureaus and landfills are merely considered an inevitable cost of our modern lives.

Wireless charging promises to remove some of this latent annoyance. The problem is that it has held such a promise for many years. Three standards organizations emerged. When considering standards, two is a crowd and three is untenable. Computerworld reported last week that two of the three standards groups have merged. That means that the problem is a bit more under control, but it persists.

The Power Matters Alliance (PMA) and the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), which introduced a new member this week, are the second and third of the three consortia. The king of the hill, with 200 member companies, is the Wireless Power Consortium’s Qi.


Wireless charging can be implemented in different ways. The two partnering groups offer different approaches that can complement each other:

The terms of the agreement call for PMA to adopt the Rezence technology as a magnetic resonance charging specification for both transmitters and receivers. In turn, the A4WP agreed to adopt the PMA's inductive specification. The A4WP also agreed to collaborate with PMA on its open network API.

Tech Radar provides a good overview of Qi and its views on wireless charging, but doesn’t touch on the two other standards and seems to assume that Qi is the only game in town.

Wireless charging will be a big deal in the burgeoning world of automotive communications. Qi wireless charging, for instance, is seeing acceptance:

The Audi phone box, first introduced in 2012, has been updated to include Qi wireless charging. The electricity in the floor of the phone box flows to a receiver coil in the smartphone via induction. In the future, the Audi phone box will not only provide perfect cell reception, but also ensure that a user's smartphone is fully charged at all times. Audi uses the WLAN hotspot in the car to intelligently combine the world of smartphones and tablets with the automotive world.

Innovation doesn’t stop. For example, eWeek reported on Humavox, which uses radio frequency (RF) waves to transfer energy from a source into a device instead of using magnetic induction. The approach can eliminate the need for wires. It was developed by two partners. One had a spinal injury that required a pain-suppressing stimulator. It had to be removed every few years to replace the battery. The partners began researching ways to recharge the battery without the surgery, and the Humavox concept, which is not yet productized, emerged.



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