CES - Wireless power could save the day

It's every business traveler's nightmare. I arrived in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) after a grueling 17-hour journey from Dublin only to discover that the power cord for my laptop wouldn't work and I didn't have an electrical converter for my mobile phone's power cable.

I had intended to buy an electrical converter for my phone in the airport when I arrived but after that long trek, I was preoccupied with picking up my bag and reaching my bed. The next day when my laptop battery wore down and I pulled out my power cord, I realized that the two halves of my laptop power cord didn't fit together so they were useless.

If Fulton Innovations has its way, my situation wouldn't pose a problem in a few years. Instead of powering my phone off when I'm not using it and begging my colleagues to borrow their laptop power cords, I could use "wireless power" technology introduced by Fulton at CES and known as eCoupled.

The technology was first developed by Fulton's parent company, Alticor, and enables the transfer of power without a wire over a distance of about an inch. Alticor originally developed it to power a device inside a water treatment system canister that contains water.

The company has been using the technology for many years but just recently decided to try to commercialize it for use in other products. Fulton started by applying for just under 200 patents, said David Hazlett, director of business development, global sales and marketing for Fulton.

A future application of the technology that could solve my CES power problem would be a simple small flat panel, potentially about the size of a small mouse pad, that I could bring along with me when I travel. In my hotel room, I'd plug the panel into the wall. By simply placing my electronic devices, such as phone, laptop, MP3 player and digital recorder, on the panel, I'd be able to charge them all. No more traveling with a handful of messy power cords.

The eCoupled technology has intelligence that senses the power requirements of the devices that touch it. That means that a single panel could deliver enough power to charge a laptop battery as well as the lower power needs of something like an MP3 player and power multiple devices at the same time.

While the technology, which uses magnetic fields to transfer electricity from one device to another, is actually wireless, the range is short so most of the applications Hazlett showed involved setting the electronic device on a pad or cradle.

The trick will be encouraging all the device makers to embed into their products the circuit boards required to use the technology. Motorola Inc. is working with Fulton and others in hopes of standardizing the technology. Other companies involved include Visteon Corp., a developer of products for the automotive industry; Mobility Electronics Inc., the creator of accessories and electronic power products; and Herman Miller, a furniture maker.

Hazlett showed off some concept products. One was a product that Visteon is working on that sits in a cup holder of a car and plugs into the adaptor. Users could set their phones or music players onto the device to power them in the car. Hazlett also showed off a car armrest with a tray in which users could place their phones to charge them.

Initially, electronic devices could be fitted with adaptors before device makers build the technology into their products. Hazlett showed off one concept adaptor that attached to an iPod and also included Bluetooth.

Hazlett showed me a circuit board that could be embedded in smaller electronic devices and it was about the size of two postage stamps and nearly as flat. That size could shrink some and in volume the boards could cost just one or two cents, he said.

Beyond the portable applications, the technology could be used for other interesting household applications. For example, Hazlett showed off a tray that could be embedded in or sit on top of a kitchen counter. Users could place small kitchen appliances such as an electric griddle or a blender on the tray to power them. The tray could be used to power mobile phones or any electronic gadget a user might set on it.

ECoupled products could have saved me at CES. I'll just have to hope that once products become commercially available, they include easy adaptors for use around the world. Otherwise I'm sure to forget a power converter on an overseas trips and still be stuck without power.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?