SAN FRANCISCO — New products and industry partnerships are paving the way for a boom in global wireless charging technology. In the next four years, the market for wireless charging hardware used in smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices is expected to increase 40-fold, according to a March 13 report from IHS.
“Makers of smartphones and tablets increasingly are integrating wireless power functionality directly into their products,” said Ryan Sanderson, associate director and principal analyst for wireless power at IHS Technology.
Several major mobile makers integrated inductive wireless charging capabilities into their products in 2013. The Nokia Lumia smartphone, Google’s Nexus 4 and 5 smartphones, and the Nexus 7 tablet all supported wireless charging, while the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4 supported wireless charging via a replacement battery.
As a result, revenue from shipments of wireless power transmitters and receivers will increase by 264% to $785 million in 2014 and reach $8.5 billion in 2018. While IHS predicts an overall increase in wireless charging hardware sold, Sanderson said annual shipments of loosely coupled receiver units will overtake tightly coupled units in 2016.
While current wireless charging capabilities are built around inductive, or tightly coupled, technology, IHS believes the industry is trending toward loosely coupled/resonance solutions. Other loosely coupled coil solutions could include radio frequency and microwave technology.
Sanderson told EE Times in an email exchange:
It’s becoming clear that... the next generation of wireless power solutions will be built on loosely coupled technology. This will allow for a better consumer experience with more freedom of movement, greater distance between the charger and receiver, and allow for easier installation into infrastructure. This will be aided by multi-mode solutions that enable loosely coupled solutions to be compatible with tightly coupled. Revenue will also overtake in this year.
New partnerships between inductive and resonance industry groups have removed “a major barrier to widespread adoption” of wireless charging and lead to boosts in revenue. Two main industry groups, resonance-supporting Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and inductive-based Power Matters Alliance (PMA), announced a partnership earlier this year.
IHS sees this as positive movement for the industry... It should be noted that the PMA and A4WP are still 2 separate alliances; it’s just that their partnership allows developers who are members of both alliances to develop products which meet both specs. [IHS] does however believe that an agreement with the [Wireless Power Consortium] also needs to be made or for a multi-mode solution which allows cross-use of loosely coupled and tightly coupled technologies, which also operates or switches between all 3 specifications.”
WPC is working on a design for loosely coupled magnetic resonance technology that will be compatible with its current tightly coupled Qi specification; this development will allow for volume adoption of wireless technology in 2015. In the meantime, IHS expects chip manufactures to play a key role in providing an interim multimode solution to enable both tight and loose-coupled technologies.
Sanderson told us:
Multi-mode solutions will provide a stepping stone which allows OEMS confidence in integrating the technology without making it obsolete or incompatible with other available solutions. One downside to multi-mode solutions is that they cost more and cost is already a barrier to adoption in this market. In the future, in order to drive costs down far enough for mass adoption a resolve between standards and technologies in needed.
— Jessica Lipsky, Associate Editor, EE Times