SAN FRANCISCO ó Samsung Electro-Mechanics and Microsoft joined the board of the Wireless Power Consortium, the industry group backing the Qi wireless charging standard. The news, announced March 10, suggests the two companies will deliver smartphones and chargers with the WPC's loosely-coupled inductive Qi technology which has a beachhead in about a million systems today.
Analysts expect the number of wireless charging devices will skyrocket to 700 million by 2018, but not until a technology transition to a loosely coupled resonant technology. The resonant approach offers more flexibility for users but is still in development by members of the WPC and other groups.
"We found out that WPC is growing bigger and bigger, and is supported by Verizon. We believe that WPC will have [significant] products, and we want to be involved in their business in an early stage," Yunho Lee, Samsung Electro-Mechanics senior manager, told EE Times, noting only board members can access all the information and contribute technology to the WPC.
Lee's division has recently released wireless charging products for the Samsung Galaxy S4, and is working with WPC on wearable and tablet solutions as well. Samsung Electro-Mechanics is looking forward to a soon-to-be-released 15 Watt spec for its tablet devices, and a 1 Watt spec for wearables. "That's why we're trying to be one of the main leaders in WPC," Lee noted.
Samsung Electro-Mechanics and Microsoft join approximately 24 other board members who act as a steering group and drive the development of WPC. Directors' dues are used to develop specs, conduct testing, and certify test houses, John Perzow, WPC vice president of market development, told EE Times. Board members also receive updates first and give input.
"Microsoft and Samsung Electro-Mechanics are important players in furthering Qi's adoption in more devices, cars, products, and places," Perzow said in a release. "They're market influencers and a commitment to Qi is clearly a commitment to developing products with wireless charging technologies."
Perzow said Samsung Electro-Mechanics' familiarity with various handsets from an accessory making standpoint is a strength in developing wireless charging technologies for multiple form factors. Samsung makes wireless charging cases, and is also familiar with automotive and NFC issues.
"You want the chargers to... work in a kind of specific way when inside a car. [Samsung] will help with making sure that those things are comprehended as Qi continues to evolve," Perzow said.
Microsoft did not return calls for comment, but Perzow speculates that Microsoft will further Nokia's existing position at the WPC following the purchase of its handset business.
"Nokia has been a big member and influencer at WPC. Going forward, this is Microsoft's commitment to maintain that," Perzow said. "Nokia has a broader range of products; those things I can only imagine benefit from the wireless charging technology."
Analysts have suggested that mobile phone and tablet markets will be key to volume adoption of wireless charging in the coming years. IHS forecasts assume that at least one major cellphone manufacturer will integrate wireless power capability throughout its ecosystem by 2016.
While Qi's current incarnation is tightly coupled/inductive charging technology, Perzow said the consortium is working on a resonance/loosely coupled spec. Other industry groups such as the Association for Wireless Power (A4WP) already have resonance specs but no devices on the market. Other Samsung divisions are board members of A4WP.
"A4WP and WPC aren't actually competing standardization groups," Lee said, adding that the technologies have just come at different times.
— Jessica Lipsky, Associate Editor, EE Times