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Your next smartphone is now closer to wireless charging

Lucas Mearian | Feb. 13, 2014
The consolidation of two groups should help the industry standardise -- and spread.

Mobile device makers, such as Samsung and LG Electronics, see wireless charging as a plus, given that consumers would likely prefer a phone with wireless charging over one without.

Ongoing consolidation

Consolidation within the wireless charging industry isn't new. Last year, Duracell's Powermat Technologies subsidiary announced a merger with its European counterpart, PowerKiss, in a deal that brought two disparate wireless power specifications together under one umbrella. Both companies fall under the PMA consortium.

PMA was born from Powermat, which claims it has more than 1,500 charging spots in the U.S. In Europe, PowerKiss said it has 1,000 charging spots in airports, hotels and some McDonald's restaurants.

So for the A4WP, which already had both resonant and inductive wireless charging in its specification, the partnership is more about increasing its customer base as well as adding smart technology.

The PMA's specification includes an API that monitors the power that's transmitted, and can manage pre-specified policies, such as how much power any device requires before it's fully charged.

Daniel Schreiber, president of Powermat and a board member of the PMA, said Powermat's inductive technology is more efficient than resonant charging, making it preferable for places like a coffee shop that doesn't want to waste power.

Consumers also may be more nervous about having their mobile devices charge next to a stranger's, Schreiber said, making inductive charging's single device limitation more attractive.

"They're highly complimentary implementations, much like WiFi and 4G," Schreiber said, referring to magnetic induction and resonant charging. "They're not displacing each other, but complimentary to one anther."

Not everyone agrees.

The end game will be resonance-only wireless charging with machine-to-machine data transfer, according to Reinier van der Lee, director of product marketing at Broadcom. "We always felt resonant technology was the way to go, but we also feel the [PMA's] inductive install base needs to be offered a transition path to resonant charging," van der Lee said.

An example of Texas Instrument's wireless charging coil and chip technology. The device can be much smaller and would be the electrical receiver in a mobile device.

Broadcom, a member of the A4WP, plans to unveil a chipset later this year that will include wireless power management capabilities. Texas Instruments already makes wireless charging chipsets.

John Perzow, the vice president of market development for the WPC, said the rival organizations joined forces after realizing their own products could not address the entire market. But the PMA and A4WP will have to make major tradeoffs to achieve interoperability between their technologies.

"For instance, you can always shoehorn two technologies in one phone, a so-called 'dual-mode' approach. But this increases cost and complexity and typically requires tradeoffs like lower efficiency," Perzow said.


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