True wireless charging tech is becoming a reality
The wireless charging technology has been around for several years. At consumer level, a number of companies such as Apple and Samsung offer phones that are compatible with wireless charging. The current consumer technology, however, involves an additional charging pad for charging wirelessly. But, it's not truly wireless, isn't it.
In last couple of years, some technology firms have been able to build functional prototypes that allow you to charge your gadgets from a distance. Believed to be the next evolution of wireless charging, the technology seems closer to reality after the US's Federal Communications Commission approved a "power-at-a-distance" wireless charger.
What is wireless charging?
Wireless charging uses electromagnetic induction wherein power is transmitted to the receiving device without the need for physical cables. As complicated as it may sound, the functioning is pretty simple. You just place your smartphone on the charging mat and the device starts charging. For devices like smartphones and wearables, the Qi standard of wireless charging is used.
Wireless charging in the present market
Back in 2012, HTC launched the Droid DNA which supported Qi standard. This was followed by the Nexus 5 launched the following year. It's safe to say that Samsung popularised wireless charging starting with the Galaxy S5 and the models that came after.
However, wireless charging reached a much broader scale with the launch of Apple's iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.
Why it's still a niche?
The current wireless charging technology still has drawbacks and limitations. For instance, the wireless charging mats don't provide the maximum power of 15W. Although eliminating the need of cables, wireless charging is still not efficient enough. The latest iPhone series started with wireless charging speeds of up to 5W and later increased to 7.5W. As fancy and exciting this technology may sound, the output is still mediocre.
OnePlus' Pete Lau made a fair point while announcing that the OnePlus 5T will not have wireless charging. Lau mentions the limitations of not being able to use your device when charging, and not receiving the maximum theoretical power of 15W either.
While smartphone makers struggle to improve wireless charging, there is a growing culture for achieving "true" wireless technology. Over the years, people have been working on devices which can transmit energy to multiple other devices at the same time without the need of a power mat.
Here's a look at some of the tech firms driving the next generation of wireless charging.
Ossia's Cota wireless charging
Ossia's Cota wireless technology uses radio frequency to transfer energy and charge devices similar to how Wi-Fi connectivity works. This platform requires a Cota transmitter which first receives signals and sends power back through the same path. A small silicon chip which acts as a Cota receiver is built into the product and sends a beacon signal to receive power. You can manage and control "mobility, visibility, and flexibility" through Cota Cloud.
Energous' WattUp wireless charging transmitter
Energous' WattUp wireless charging transmitter works similarly using radio frequencies to charge devices up to a distance of 15 feet. WattUp, however, comes with energy-saving optimizations as it will only charge devices lacking power.
WattUp transmitters can also adjust the amount of charge needed for each device. Just two weeks back, the FCC certified the WattUp Mid Field transimtter which can charge devices up to 3 feet. This makes it the first commercial true wirless charging device.
WiTricity takes wireless charging to another level as it is integrated for electric and autonomous vehicles. Electric vehicles are charged through gigantic cables which are indeed a hassle and an inconvenience as well.
WiTricity's technology can wirelessly charge your vehicle by parking it just above a resonator on the ground which uses magnetic field to transfer energy. WiTricty hopes to increase the adoption of electric vehicles by making its most crucial point of power through wireless charging.
Pi wireless charger for smartphones
The next best thing to wireless charging mats would be the Pi wireless charger. Shaped as a cone, the Pi wireless charger changes "the angle of a magnetic field to perfectly match the angle of your device". Pi can charge up to four or more devices at once giving up to 10W of power per device.
Pi is capable with iPhones and Samsung's Galaxy smartphones fitted with a magnetic charging case, TechCrunch reports. However, smartphones with a wireless charging compatible body do not require the case.