Wireless Charging Technology – One Step Closer to Reality

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | August 29, 2012 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: wireless power, wireless charging, wireless, Intel, Integrated Device Technology, charging

The wireless transfer of power, in order to recharge your mobile devices has been something that has fascinated the staff at PC Perspective for a while now.  You can get toothbrushes which charge via inductance and even as far back as 2010 there were projects underway to allow cellphones to recharge without needing a wire and more importantly without needing the correct plug!  More recently, the Wireless Power Consortium was a presenter at CES 2012, where they showed Matt their Qi, a coil-based charging solution capable of delivering up to 5W at a distance of 5mm, not enough to charge your phone in pocket but certainly reasonable for a charging mat.  They are working on a 10W model and hope to extend it up to 120W which would be enough to power a low end PC.  

Today Intel released information on their long standing wireless power technology and their new development partner, Integrated Device Technology, Inc.  They intend to develop this technology on chipsets, so that a cellphone placed next to an Ultrabook would begin to wirelessly recharge without input from you.  One assumes that this would not apply to a system running off of a critical battery, though the idea of being able to drain power from an unsuspecting user could lead to some interesting pranks.   Check the full release below.

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Even Captain Kirk would have raised an eyebrow at the prospect of wireless charging on board the Enterprise, and he probably would have given Scotty a raise! But today it’s a step closer to reality for all of us not zipping around the universe at warp speed. Demoed by Intel Labs for the first time way back in 2008, Wireless Charging Technology (WCT) by Intel literally lets you charge your smartphone wirelessly from your notebook PC. That’s right — no cables, no power cords. Of course Intel is no stranger to wireless technologies, launching Centrino mobile technology nearly a decade ago. Imagine a coffee shop without Wifi today?

Today Integrated Device Technology, Inc. (IDT) – a technology company with specialized expertise in wireless charging - announced it will develop and deliver chipsets for Wireless Charging Technology by Intel. IDT’s product is important and new because it leads to a solution that isn’t limited to inductive charging and ‘smartphone on a charging mat’ usage. Size and cost reductions are key to IDT’s solution, as is their differentiated “resonance wireless charging technology” that simplifies the way the PC charges the phone wirelessly. Intel is working with companies like IDT, peripheral vendors (from smartphone cases to printers and cameras), OEMs, and other ecosystem partners to deliver a cost-effective and simpler path to wireless charging.

Although we are not yet giving out timeframes for consumer products with WCT enabled, IDT has stated they will be delivering their full chipset solution for reference design work in early 2013. The ecosystem is already excited about this technology so we assume there will be a race to the finish line for sure.

Imagine, for example, this wireless charging solution in an Ultrabook of the future. How would it work? You are low on juice on your phone — you simply start the WCT detection software and place the smartphone close to your Ultrabook (about an inch or so). Coupling takes place between the two devices and energy begins to seamlessly and wirelessly flow from the Ultrabook to the smartphone. Within an hour, you have recharged your smartphone sufficiently to make it through the afternoon. No more wires or chargers.

Intel will be discussing specific plans and timelines at a later date, so stay tuned for more details on this innovation that’s one step closer from the labs to your home.

 

Source: Intel

Cords? The Wireless Power Consortium Thinks They’re Old-Fashioned

Subject: Mobile | January 13, 2012 - 11:27 AM |
Tagged: CES, wireless power, wireless, tablet, smartphone, mobile, charging

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Where was the most interesting technology at CES? Intel’s booth? Nope. Nvidia’s booth? Guess again. Perhaps you could find it at Qualcomm’s stand? Guess again.

If you ask me, the most interesting technology was tucked away in the back of the lower level of the South Hall, which is where you’ll find smaller companies and organizations that have decided to forgo a normal booth and instead just rent out space for a meeting room. That’s where you’ll find The Wireless Power Consortium and its Qi wireless power standard. 

Wireless power is exactly what it sounds like. You may have already heard of the charging mats made available by companies like Energizer. These allow users to charge a smartphone simply by placing them in the right location, forgetting about cords entirely.

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Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But there’s been a problem with them – until recently, they’ve all been proprietary. You had to use a special charging case to get the mats to work with your phone and that case wouldn’t work with competing products. You also were limited to charging in your home (or wherever you place the charging mat) which kind of defeats the point. 

To fix this, there must be a standard, and that’s what The Wireless Power Consortium has created. It’s called Qi, and it’s a coil-based charging solution that can be implemented in all sorts of mobile devices. Currently the standard can handle up to 5 watts and can work within 5mm, but both of these figures are to be expanded. New technology that can handle 10 watts is being tested, and the hope is for 120 watts to be achievable in the near future. That would allow for wireless charging of PCs and appliances. 

But enough about the specifications. Why am I excited about Qi? Let me explain.

Many current smartphones have mini-USB ports for one reason only – charging. Everything else, from syncing music to downloading files, can be achieved through a wireless connection. If that port could be removed entirely, it would allow for more design flexibility. Take the current Droid Razr, for example. It is extremely thin except for a bulge that houses the camera and the ports. If you could charge your phone wirelessly, designers would have one less port to design around.

Battery life is another part of this equation. As technology in our mobile devices continues to improve at an amazing rate, battery technology doesn’t seem able to keep up. I know – I own a HTC Thunderbolt. My phone has notoriously bad battery life with 4G LTE enabled. 

One solution is to make batteries bigger, but that increases weight, size and cost. Wireless power offers an alternative – make charging easier and more frequent. If you had wireless power in your car, at work and at home, your phone could easily maintain a high level of charge. And since it’s wireless, you don’t have to do anything except place your phone in the right place. 

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The Wireless Power Consortium booth – er, meeting room – had some interesting examples to show me.  One was a table with a built-in Qi compatible charger that can be deployed at restaurants, coffee shops and other places. In fact, some such tables can already be found in Japan and China. They number only in the hundreds, but it’s start.

For our Asian friends, who use more public transportation and tend to live in more densely packed cities, charging tables make a lot of sense. But here in North America we tend to get around with our own private vehicles. To help the standard get traction here, The Wireless Power Consortium is working with auto manufacturers to place wireless charging in automobiles. They hope that we’ll see it offered in a few vehicles starting the 2013 model year. 

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There are a lot of pieces that need to find their place in order for Qi to really take off, but they at least have the necessary partners including big names like Motorola and Texas Instruments, among many others. Keep an eye on this over the next year – it could end up being a true game changer. 

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!