SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Wireless charging of mobile devices, simply by laying the device on a suitably wired plate or desktop, seems like an attractive option. Some proponents say 2013 will be a breakthrough year for the technology. Others ask which standard will hold sway and whether convenience will win out over efficiency of energy transfer.
The technology is in place to provide 5-watt chargers that operate at up to 40-mm distance with moves to increase power levels to 15 watts. But efficiency is highly spatially dependent. In addition multiple industry organizations exist and it is not yet clear where the momentum lies.
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Established in 2008 and now with more than 125 members, the Wireless Power Consortium is the largest industry association working towards the standardization of wireless charging technology. However, that does not make the success of the organization, or of its standard, called Qi (pronounced chee) automatic.
For a start some significant players are backing alternative approaches. Qualcomm, Samsung, Broadcom and others are in an alternative consortium, the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and Intel is still pursuing a proprietary approach.
Qualcomm's alternative position is significant because it held a 48 percent market share of application processors in smartphones in the first half of 2012, according to market researcher Strategy Analytics, providing it with an opportunity to influence decisions by providing reference designs.
Samsung is a member of both A4WP and the Wireless Power Consortium, showing that there is still much to play for.
...forgot to comment why a toothbrush-type application makes sense. This is an application where the charger functionality is hidden. The toothbrush charger is primarily a storage socket to keep your toothbrush off the counter - and oh by the way it also charges. A portable phone doesn't always sit on the charger pad. You have to go out of your way to put your phone where you normally don't store it.
Another bigger application is a floormat electric car battery charger. Again, you park you car on the garage floor - and oh by the way the mat on the floor couples the charge while you are parked.
Apple has already said they have no plans for wireless charging. And their reasoning is sound: one still needs to plug a charger into the wall.
And as far as a universal charging standard: that already exists. It's called USB and is used by everyone in the business.
If wireless charging makes sense, it will be in applications that are similar to a toothbrush - a charging solution that's been around for more than one decade.
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