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Wireless Charging Technology is in a Mess, But Who is the One to be blamed?

Published By : IndustryARC | Published On : 2013-06-30

Wireless Charging Industry has been Promising to its Customers for Couple of Years

The wireless charging industry has been promising ubiquitous wireless charging to its customers for the past couple of years but there has not been much progress to date on the penetration or shipment front. Wireless chargers are still being seen as a novelty and only some manufacturers like Nokia was actively seen as a proponent in the smartphone industry. Charging a phone or gadget anywhere by simply placing on the charging mat anywhere like the home, office, coffee shop, airports was a dream which could have been easily realized by now, but the collective battery anxiety of customers has only grown as the size and power consumption of our gadgets has grown.

We currently have 3 wireless charging standards from Alliance

  • Wireless Power (A4WP),
  •  Wireless Power Consortium (WPC)
  •  Power Matters Alliance (PMA).

While the former standard is based on the resonant charging technology, the latter two are based on the inductive charging technology. Each one of these is backed by the industry heavyweights like Qualcomm, Intel, Samsung, Nokia, Sony Corporation and so on based on their interests and alliances. Qualcomm and Samsung interestingly are members of all three organizations. The WPC has 177 member organizations in 16 countries currently and its trademarked ā€œQiā€ symbol is being used already by members on their products. It has the reach and also the headstart on other alliances.

The A4WP has around 50+ members currently but it is pursuing the resonant charging based standard which has the inherent property of allowing devices to be charged from a distance, negating the need for them to be placed on a mat. Hence the interest and demand for such technology is very high primarily due to its use case scenarios.

The point to be noted here is that big corporations with resources are backing the standards and the standards, certification programs and marketing initiatives are all in place from each of these 3 groups. Yet we do not see a massive rollout of wireless charging into the large product portfolio of these companies. Obviously the differing standard is the main reason nobody has put the money where the mouth is. No company wants to back a particular standard, put up funding and launch products only to realize sometime later that the standard is obsolete. What is needed here is a consensus, peace by putting the arms down and discusses to put up one unifying standard. The good thing out of this is that different groups with massive funding have 3 different standards which have their advantages and their problems. All the three can be combined and a unified Wireless Charging Standard can be launched.

IndustryARC believes that this has already started as some members are already working on a true dual-mode specification which allows both inductive and resonant charging to be compatible with a charger. This is the first step to realize the One Standard which can rule them all. IDT as of now offers dual-mode wireless power receiver IC compatible with PMA and WPC standards but not A4WP. The other reason is of course the cost of these charging devices.

Wireless charging needs a transceiver and a receiver, with the receiver usually integrated into the device to be charged or attached as a case (for a smartphone as an example). The transceiver is either a mat connected to a plug point or can be another device which wirelessly transmits power like in case of resonant charging. As smartphones are trying to get thinner, integration can be problematic. Hence cases and mats are the immediate future. Wireless power transmission is good as the receiver is relatively small and can be integrated in resonant charging but the setup is costly and hence is used better in public places like coffee shops.

Starbucks which is a member of PMA is using powermats in some of its stores as a trial, but what we need here is more retailers and chains to come up and promote the technology. In all probability no one standard will completely go away but the first shot should be fired from the users or retailers in this case to force a move from the manufacturers and the standards bodies. There is no other way for the technology to come into full force, gain traction and become ubiquitous.



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