Last week, we spoke about the latest iPhones all (finally) supporting wireless charging and Apple’s commitment to the Qi wireless charging standard. But the sort of wireless charging that Apple has chosen to back isn’t truly a wireless solution, since you still have to use a charging mat (plugged into an outlet), and your device must be placed on the mat in order for it to charge. However, there are other wireless charging options on the market that are truly wireless.
One such company is called Energous, a Silicon Valley-based company whose WattUp wire-free charging technology is gaining a lot of buzz. Energous supplies chips to manufacturers that can be integrated into a wide variety of devices (such as smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and more) that enable wireless power transmission at short, medium, and long distance ranges – the longest of which can bolster energy from up to 15 feet in any direction. Energous uses a Radio Frequency (RF) system, so the experience of charging your devices will feel similar to using a router for Wi-Fi. According to their website: “A WattUp transmitter, or Power Router, sends energy via a Radio Frequency (RF) signal to your WattUp-enabled electronic devices when requested. A WattUp receiver in each device converts that signal into battery power.” To learn more about Energous in action, check out this article about their CES 2017 exhibition.
Another company, Ossia, with their Cota Wireless Power technology, envisions a world in which you walk into your home, an airport, a coffee shop, even a train – and your devices automatically begin to charge. The system comprises of a transmitter, a receiver, and software. The transmitter comes in many different forms: from a smartspeaker-looking cylinder, to a ceiling tile. The receiver is a microchip that can be embedded into numerous devices, which mostly lies dormant, but gets triggered when a Cota receiver sends it a packet of information indicating a need for charge. The software then directs the charge from the transmitter to the receiver’s location, even if there’s movement. Cota uses the same frequency as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and can charge multiple devices at once.
Finally, there is Wi-Charge, which just received FDA approval to sell their products in the US. Wi-Charge works differently than Energous and Ossia because it uses infrared beams to transmit power as opposed to an RF system. The range for their charge is up to 10 meters indoors, with 3-4 watts of power per device. In order for the technology to work, your device needs to be in, what they call, the “line-of-sight” (i.e. visible to the transmitter). The first phase of their operations will use dongles or cases attached to your device equipped with the receiver. In the future, receivers will be fitted inside devices, like we’ve seen with Energous and Ossia. The current Wi-Charge charging stations double as lamps, but in the future, the company wants to equip transmitters into ceiling light fixtures in office buildings and homes.
While Apple was praised for choosing to implement a fairly ubiquitous wireless charging standard into their latest iPhones, their choice was actually quite underwhelming. Apple is known for being at the forefront of innovation. Because they waited so long to jump on the wireless charging wagon, many expected them to come out with something better than a technology that’s been standard on Android phones for years. They didn’t. Instead, startups like Energous, Ossia, and Wi-Charge now stand at the forefront of wireless charging innovation.
Wireless charging is essential to the smart home of the future because the smart home of the future is wireless. From the smart speaker boom to advances in wireless, multiroom audio, this year has brought hi-tech products into the mainstream market, fueling the growth of the smart home sphere. With the introduction of true wireless charging into homes, offices, and public spaces, we’re one step closer to a truly connected world.