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Your next fridge could charge all your mobile devices

Lucas Mearian | Oct. 28, 2014
Home appliance maker Haier announced today that it has signed a joint development agreement with Energous, creator of the WattUp wireless router that sends power in a 15-ft. radius using radio frequency transmissions.

Your next refrigerator or television may also double as a wireless charger for your mobile devices and wearables.

Home appliance maker Haier announced today that it has signed a joint development agreement with Energous, creator of the WattUp wireless router that sends power in a 15-ft. radius using radio frequency transmissions.

China-based Haier, a $180 billion company, dominates the market in shipped white goods, which include major appliances such as freezers, refrigerators and washing machines, according to research firm Euromonitor. Haier also produces thousands of other products, from televisions and computers to cellphones and robots, all of which could potentially house wireless charging technology.

"WattUp is a natural fit for a wide range of Smart Home products," William Xu, chief marketing office for Haier Wireless, said in a statement. "As Haier Wireless continues to cultivate the wireless power industrial ecosystem in the connected home market, true wire-free charging is a value-add we feel we must aggressively pursue. In our vision, WattUp-embedded Haier Wireless appliances would serve as transmitters for any WattUp-enabled device that is within range."

Energous CEO Stephen Rizzone said the deal with Haier completes a wire-free charging ecosystem for his company. "We now have 10 [joint development agreements] that will see WattUp transmitter and receiver technology embedded in devices such as smartphones, Wi-Fi routers and now a wide range of household appliances," Rizzone said.

In order for WattUp routers to work, receiver technology has to be enabled in the mobile devices that would take on an electrical charge.

George Holmes, Energous' senior vice president of sales and marketing, said the company has deals in the works with several undisclosed equipment makers. The development agreements include cylindrical battery makers, smartphone sleeve and wearable device manufacturers, he said.

Because of the longer development cycle, Holmes said he doesn't expect smartphone makers to embed the technology in products for at least 12 to 18 months. But Holmes does expect wearable device makers to embed the receivers in products in the next year and toy makers to embed it over the next 24 months.

Holmes expects Haier to roll out wireless charging-enabled appliances within 14 months.

"They're a very aggressive company," Holmes said.

Unlike other white goods makers who can struggle to change manufacturing processes, Haier is able to quickly adapt because its headquarters is located in a manufacurting hub in China with an abundance of resources, according to Kithany.

"It's a different [business] culture. They can quickly adapt their style of manufacturing to adopt new technogy and start shipping," Kithany said.

While Haier has not yet announced which appliances will get the embedded wireless charging routers, the larger the appliance is, the greater the potential for power output.

 

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