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

Subject: Mobile | January 13, 2012 - 02:27 PM |
Tagged: CES, wireless power, wireless, tablet, smartphone, mobile, charging

View Full Size

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.

View Full Size

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. 

View Full Size

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. 

View Full Size

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!

January 16, 2012 | 12:59 PM - Posted by Stuee

The only problem with having public charging tables is security. It's bad enough when 4 people in a party smoke the same cigarettes or drink the same beer - which one's mine? - but with an important and expensive personal device? No thanks.

I love the idea for private charging at home, in the car, wherever, but our phones are far too desirable to lay on a table in a public place. Would you do that with your wallet?

January 17, 2012 | 01:08 AM - Posted by rmadball

I wouldn't do that with my wallet but I do set my phone next to me on the table when I eat out. I think it's a freaken good idea. I can't wait with home versions of this comes out though. That is where you would get the most out of it. Hopefully we won't have to have a stupid dongle sticking out the side. That is how most Android versions are right now. Iphone and limited Android devices are able to use a case. Personally don't want to use a case. I love my OtterBox I have now (on a Samsung Nexus).

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <blockquote><p><br>
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.