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Start-up Humavox unveils wireless charging via radio frequency

Lucas Mearian | Dec. 11, 2013
Humavox this week unveiled Eterna, a new platform that uses RF signals to wirelessly power the Internet of Things, especially medical and wearable devices such as hearing aids, smart watches and augmented-reality glasses.

Humavox's technology transmits RFs over a broad band of frequency waves and converts it to voltage to wirelessly charge the battery, Lachman said. The technology uses coils similar to those used by magnetic resonance to transmit power, but additionally uses an antenna to establish the transmission connection.

Humavox is not alone in the Wi-Fi wireless charging space. After six years of development, start-up Ossia has already demonstrated its Cota wireless charging technology, which it says will be available to consumers and enterprises by 2015.

Another company, PowerbyProxi, also has a wireless charging technology that allows users to simply place objects into a box to be charged. Earlier this year, Samsung's venture funding arm announced it was investing $4 million in the company.

PowerbyProxi is a member of the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) Steering Committee, which is developing standards for wireless charging. Currently, a WPC task force is working to define a wireless power resonant extension to the Qi (pronounced "chee") specification. Qi is the most widely adopted wireless charging specification today.

The NEST Station wireless charging prototype.

The Qi specification enables inductive or pad-style charging over short-distance (1.5cm or less) as well as magnetic resonance charging. The Qi specification is supported by 166 companies, including LG Electronics, Sony, Nokia and Verizon Wireless.

Another wireless charging group is the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), a consortium founded by Qualcomm and Samsung. That group is focused on bringing wireless charging to tablets and laptops.

Gartner analyst Sergis Mushell said the wireless charging market, regardless of the methods used, faces big hurdles ahead of adoption. The first and foremost obstacle is that the industry has yet to settle on a standard.

"Any standard that comes in needs the ability to charge devices in a timely manner. You also have to be able to use the device comfortably while it's charging," Mushell said. "Lastly, you need a business model that offers an incentive for those who have to deploy the infrastructure to support your charging method.

"As long as we have the tail wagging the dog, this will not be successful," he added.

Mushell pointed to coffee shops as an example of why wireless charging has yet to become ubiquitous. Because there's no current way for them to make money by deploying the technology, any rollout remains a difficult sell.

Mushell pointed to Bluetooth as a good example of the industry coming to terms over a standard, in that Bluetooth is now the ubiquitous short-distance communications specification for electronic devices.

"There has been development of wireless charging technology for the past two years and it's still probably only a $30 million market," Mushell said.


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