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Cutting the cable: Wireless charging becomes a reality

Lucas Mearian | Sept. 12, 2012
Imagine sitting down at work, plopping a mobile device on the desk and having it wirelessly charge itself while, at the same time, synchronizing new data to your PC.

To date, there are no resonance-charging devices available, according to Stofega. But that may soon change as Intel ramps up its wireless chip development.

Intel Labs first demonstrated in 2008 technology that could wirelessly charge mobile devices. Intel's Wireless Charging Technology (WCT) would let a user charge a smartphone wirelessly from a notebook PC. Intel late last month announced a partnership with Integrated Device Technology Corp. (IDT) to develop chipsets for WCT products.

Products using the chipsets are expected to come out in 2013, Intel said.

Some reports have said the next Apple MacBook laptop will have wireless charging capability based on the Intel-IDT technology.

"[The jointly developed] product is important and new because it leads to a solution that isn't limited to inductive charging and 'smartphone on a charging mat' usage," Intel spokesman Dan Snyder wrote in a blog post.

"Although we are not yet giving out timeframes for consumer products with WCT enabled, IDT has stated they will be delivering their full chipset solution for reference design work in early 2013," Snyder added. "The ecosystem is already excited about this technology so we assume there will be a race to the finish line for sure."

Currently, wireless chargers can supply up to 5 watts of power, the equivalent of most USB-style chargers available today. By comparison, a USB port on a laptop, which shares it's bandwidth with data I/O, offers only 2.5 watts of power.

Some of the latest USB chargers, however, offer fast charging with 10 watts of power.

The Wireless Power Consortium is already working to extend its Qi specification to allow 10 watt power charging, said Menno Treffers, chairman of WPC.

"In the U.S., you're seeing smartphones [with wireless charging] taking off this quarter," Treffers said. "Europe will be a little later than the U.S."

In Japan, where the wireless charging market is more mature, several companies have put out combination products, where a single system can be used to charge a device while transferring data.

For example, TDK this week released a Bluetooth enabled speaker that also uses magnetic induction to power mobile phones while also playing music stored on them.

Treffers said automobile manufacturers can be expected to add wireless charging technology to cars.

"The automobile industry needs to start now because there's a long [development] lead time," Treffers said. "If you want wireless charging in your car this year, you would have had to have started production last year."

The Qi standard

The Wireless Power Consortium published the version 1.1 of the Qi open wireless charging standard in March, 2012.

Laptops and charging devices supporting the standard can charge mobile devices that are placed on, or near them using either magnetic induction or resonance charging.

 

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