MediaTek has developed a multimode wireless charging solution, the company announced yesterday at the International CES in Las Vegas. The technology lets users charge devices anywhere at any time on a specific pad or surface, and can be used for inductive or resonant wireless charging applications.
Until recently, most wireless power solutions were achieved through tightly coupled technology, called inductive, or through loosely coupled technology, referred to as resonance. Both camps have supporters: Inductive is embraced by companies such as Nokia, Samsung, LG, and Verizon, while resonance is supported by those including AT&T, Google, Proctor, and TI.
Left (in red) shows a wireless charging station based on resonant power transfer technology. Right is Qi wireless charging station using industive power transfer technology. (Source: EE Times/Junko Yoshida)
"Most analysts agree that the adoption of wireless power is being slowed by competing specifications," said a MediaTek spokesman in a statement.
Although MediaTek offers a differentiated resonance solution, its announcement today of multimode receiver technology would let users charge their devices from existing inductive chargers or new resonance chargers. It is product agnostic -- it can fire up a Samsung tablet, an iPad, or a Droid from a single coil. It can also charge over longer physical distances.
Two types of wireless charging in Mediatek's multimodal charger.
The timing is good for such a product, because the market for wireless charging will explode in 2014, according to Ryan Sanderson at IHS, a leading analyst in the field of wireless power.
Consumers are eager for charging devices that are simple to use, affordable, and can power up multiple devices at the same time. Mediatek's product is aimed right at promoting the ease and convenience that should define wireless charging. In a statement, Sanderson noted: "2013 saw 20M wireless charging receivers shipped into the market, the majority of which were integrated into mobile phones and tablets, enabling and supporting wireless charging straight out of the box. IHS forecasts this number to grow to 700M by 2018."
That's a huge number, pumped up in part by an interest by some retail businesses -- such as Starbucks, a supporter of resonant technology -- to provide charging services as a convenience, or to provide a recurring revenue stream. Having a universal device available makes the decision to provide a charging service far less complicated. Furthermore, cellular providers such as Verizon want to be able to provide a universal wireless charger with each device as a paid upgrade.
"From a business viewpoint, MediaTek's technology helps to ensure that capital investments already made in chargers for the home, office, retail and automotive markets will be protected, while providing the benefits of resonant charging with new resonant chargers," the vendor's spokesman said. "Users benefit from being able to charge on virtually any charger platform regardless of underlying technology employed."
The vendor is offering product demonstrations at its show booth this week. The International CES has showcased consumer technologies since 1967, when it debuted in New York City. It has served as the stage where many innovative products have been introduced during the past 45 years, including: the VCR and the laserdisk, the camcorder, the Pong home console, as well as Microsoft's Xbox.
— Jennifer D. Bosavage is editor in chief of Solution Providers For Retail.