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Wireless charging from 30 feet away -- does startup have a game changer?

Lucas Mearian | Sept. 11, 2013
Ossia exec says Cota device can wirelessly charge multiple devices through walls, around corners

Zeine said his company currently holds four core patents issued by the U.S. patent office, as well as others issued internationally. He plans on licensing the technology to equipment makers. He said Ossia is already discussing the technology with some companies.

The Cota consumer transmitter would sell for around the same price as a WiFi hub, "basically $100 or a little more", Zeine said.

While Zeine may believe his technology is without compare, there are competitors, though most use ether tightly or loosely coupled magnetic induction technology based on the Qi standard or magnetic resonance technology, which can wirelessly charge over a very short distance (millimeters).

The Qi (pronounced "chee") standard, developed by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), enables inductive or pad-style charging and short-distance (1.5cm or less) magnetic resonance charging. The specifications are supported by a list of 166 companies that reads like a who's who of electronics, such as LG Electronics, Sony Corp. Nokia and Verizon Wireless.

WiTricity, based on Watertown, Mass., has developed its own flavor of wireless charging that works at a longer distance than 1.5cm and through solid objects.

David Schatz, director of business development at WiTricity, calls the company's technology highly resonant wireless power transfer.

Schatz has demonstrated how a prototype WiTricity wireless charger, called "Prodigy," can power a device from about 10 inches away. The black, oval-shaped Prodigy charger looks much like any charging pad told in stores today. It sells for $995 and is now essentially a demo kit for engineers, researchers and entrepreneurs who would use it to develop their own charging products.

WiTricity is one of several start-ups that are part of yet another wireless power association, the Power Matters Alliance (PMA). The PMA's members include prestigious players such as Duracell Powermat, developer of the most widely used wireless charging technology today. Powermat is used, for example, in Starbucks coffee shops to allow patrons to charge their enabled smart phones and tablets on tabletops.

Then there's the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), a rival group that's backed by Qualcomm and Samsung. The 50-plus members of A4WP also includes Broadcom, Haier, Intel, LG Electronics, and SanDisk.

The A4WP technology also claims spatial freedom, offering a larger charging field. That means multiple devices, such as a tablet or smartphone, can be placed on the same pad and charged at the same time.

Cota wireless charging technology is currently only available as a prototype. The pillar-shaped device demonstrated by Zeine appeared to be about 6 feet high and contained 200 transmitters. The device was hidden behind a curtain during the demonstration at TechCrunch's Disrupt show.

Cota said once the technology is miniaturized and no longer based on "off the shelf electronics," the development team will fit 20,000 transmitters into an 18-in cube box. "The more transmitters, the higher the efficiency," he said.


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