True wireless charging has remained a pipe dream for many years, ever since we first saw companies work on this magical technology. Wireless charging that’s available on products like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, or the Apple Watch, isn’t true wireless charging – it requires the device to be placed on a base, which needs to be connected to a power outlet using a wire. You also need to keep the device in the correct ‘hotspot’ for charging to commence – although Qualcomm’s WiPower standard seems to have worked its way around the issue, charging electronics that are kept loosely on the charging surface.
True wireless charging is when electronics around us charge as seamlessly as they connect to a nearby Wi-Fi network. This has the potential to revolutionise the way we use electronics – even smartphones and laptops with the longest battery life typically need recharging at the end of the day. Then there are smartwatches, which have physical constraints such that you can’t fit big batteries inside them, and are thus restricted in their functionality.Even devices that we don’t use as often stand to be benefited from true wireless charging. Things like game controllers, power banks, tablets, cameras, or wireless speakers – potentially every device that runs on batteries today. If devices are juicing themselves constantly simply by being in the right room, even if it’s happening more slowly than wired charging, seeing a low battery symbol might just become a rare sight.
To understand how far we are from seeing such implementations of wireless charging in real world devices, Gadgets 360 decided to look at all the top companies in the space, and see what work they’ve done. In a field that’s steadily moving towards standards, these are the companies that have been most lauded for their work, and their wireless charging products.
Energous also allows users to control the delivery of power through software. It’s possible to determine which compatible devices are charged, and even set priorities so the right devices get charged first. You can see a visualisation of how Energous WattUp will work – and rumour has it that it’s working with Apple to bring true wireless charging to future iPhones.
Wi-Charge, founded in 2010, takes a different approach to true wireless charging – by using light instead of electromagnetic waves. A transmitter installed on the roof of any room beams infrared light to a receiver, which in demo videos is placed on a phone jacket cover.
The transmitter could be integrated into something elegant like a ceiling lamp. Since it uses light, a line of sight is required for the charging to occur – meaning it won’t charge if say, the phone is in your pocket. The use of light also means that the technology will not cause any electromagnetic interference. It reportedly has a working range of between 15 to 30 feet.
Early demos have met with positive responses, and we’re apparently just a couple of years away from commercial use.
Intel was one of the early believers in WiTricity, which uses the principle of magnetic resonance instead of induction (which most current ‘wireless’ chargers are based on), and boasts 90 percent efficiency. Early demos were taking place in 2013, with promises of WiTricity powered cars by 2016; that might have been too good to be true, but at CES 2016, the company was able to demonstrate contact-based wireless charging for laptops.
The charging fields can transmit power even through stone and metal, and generates enough power to charge a laptop, which draws far more power than a smartphone – WiTricity demonstrated power being delivered at up to 30 watts. The charging coil itself looks extremely thin and flexible, so it could be embedded in a number of devices. Dell is going to be one of the first customers, although apparently the US military is also using the technology, to charge tech is soldiers’ backpacks, such as night vision goggles.