Vendors hope wireless charging will resonate with consumers

Resonant wireless charging promises big improvements, but is still in its infancy

A handful of vendors have introduced products based on resonant wireless power transfer at International CES, which will increase charging distances and allow users to charge multiple products at the same time.

So far, wireless charging hasn't seen much success among consumers, but vendors like ConvenientPower, MediaTek, PowerbyProxi and WiTricity are hoping to change that by making it much more flexible than existing systems based on inductive technology.

Thanks to resonant technology, users will be able to charge multiple devices of different sizes at the same time, over larger distances, and with more imprecise placement, the vendors agreed.

Resonant systems are very similar to inductive systems in that a primary coil and secondary coil are used to create the charge. But where inductive systems depend on these two coils being closely aligned, resonant systems work even if that isn't the case. In addition, multiple secondary coils can also be used to capture power, according to a white paper from MediaTek.

WiTricity said its new resonant-based charging system will be offered as a reference design and development system to mobile device manufacturers, accessory makers and furniture designers. The system has initially been designed for Apple's iPhone 5 and 5s. It includes a charging sleeve that fits the two smartphones and a charging hub.

The hub can charge two phones at the same time. It can be placed on a table as an upright or flat charging pad, or mounted underneath a desk. By mounting the charging pad under a surface, smartphone users are freed from the tangle of charging cords and cluttered desktops, according to WiTricity.

ConvenientPower debuted WoW Z, which the company called the first magnetic resonance technology to wirelessly charge Qi mobile phones. It works at distances of up to 18 millimeters, three times more than today's Qi solutions allow, with a 65 percent efficiency, according to ConvenientPower.

PowerbyProxi announced it had signed a licensing agreement with Texas Instruments. The initial focus of the partnership will be to deliver a resonant solution compatible with the Qi standard, the company said.

The Qi standard is developed by the WPC (Wireless Power Consortium), and is backed by phone makers such as HTC, LG Electronics, Nokia and Samsung Electronics.

MediaTek is backing both WPC and the competing PMA (Power Matters Alliance). At CES, the company showed a multimode receiver technology for resonant as well as inductive charging. That MediaTek is implementing wireless charging should open the door for inclusion of the technology in cheaper smartphones, which is the chip maker's bread and butter.

Unfortunately, one thing the vendors aren't saying is when the products based on resonant charging technology will reach consumers.

Resonant charging systems are still a work in progress and may have some early growing pains. But the benefits afforded by the underlying physics of the technology will help bring the early success of inductive wireless charging to mass market adoption, MediaTek said.

Other large chip vendors like Qualcomm and Intel are also active in this field.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Tags CESsmartphoneshardware systemsMedia players / recorderstabletsaccessoriesConvenientPowerWiTricityMediaTekPowerbyProxiconsumer electronics

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Mikael Ricknäs

IDG News Service
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