Wireless Power vs. Wireless Charging
Wireless charging has been available for many years and a wide range of companies from component vendors to coffee shops have been developing solutions and implementing them. To date wireless charging has largely been achieved using induction or magnetic resonance as a near-field solution, with devices charged by placement on a charging matt. The Wireless Power Consortium (Qi), AirFuel Alliance and their members have been the major driving force behind wireless charging and it now becoming common place.
Wireless power is a far-field technology employing RF, ultrasound and even lasers, largely to provide trickle charging/wireless power at a distance. There are a small number of technology vendors providing wireless power solutions, these include Energous, PowerCast, Ubeam and Wi- Charge. Ossia also licenses its Cota IP to 3rd parties to incorporate into their own chipsets and charging stations, which could be a means to accelerate adoption of wireless charging.
Why use Wireless Power?
Wireless power at a distance can fundamentally change the way products are used and designed. Wireless power has the potential to power/charge devices whenever they are in proximity to a wireless charging station; this could be the home, office, car or even public transport. By providing ubiquitous, wireless power, devices can be made thinner, more waterproof and potentially remove the need for batteries in small devices such as Bluetooth beacons, electronic shelf labels and smart home sensors.
Applications for Wireless Power
Consumer devices is a key category for wireless power, this includes smartphones, tablets, and wearables such as smartwatches and fitness bands. It is likely that the consumer space will lag behind others such as retail and industrial applications, which are expected to be the first to adopt.
A proliferation of battery powered devices is expected in the smart home in the next few years, these include everything from detection sensors, through to thermostats and even smart speakers.
Wireless power can be used to extend battery life or even eliminate the need for batteries. Wireless power stations would be placed in key areas in the home, the living room and kitchen are obvious locations.
The retail sector is constantly experimenting with new technology to better track foot traffic, as well as update labels. Wireless power technology could be used to power such things as Bluetooth beacons and electronic shelf labels in order to vastly reduce the battery size needed and eliminate costly maintenance associated with battery replacement. Commercial and industrial tags and labels can be powered wirelessly instead of needing a battery change or to be wired. Restaurants, coffee shops, and stores could offer wireless power as an amenity to customers.
Office spaces are another key area that could benefit from wireless power. Power stations could be placed in key areas as needed – in executive offices, alongside cubicles, and in conference rooms. This could provide power for mobile devices, office equipment, security tags, etc.
Wireless power stations could be placed in every type of transportation including trains, buses, and planes, as well as at train stations, bus stops, and airports. The car is a perfect place to include wireless power to enable trickle charging of devices in the car and also to power wireless sensors such as the tire pressure sensors and many more. Wireless power could help to reduce the amount of wiring and hence the weight of vehicles.
Is This the End of Near-Field Wireless Charging?
Wireless charging and wireless power are very complimentary. Wireless power can trickle charge phones and slow down their net power drain while being used, and wireless charging will be used to easily top off devices when the user can put the phone down on a wireless charging cradle or surface. SAR believes that both near- field charging and far-field power will become common on a wide range of devices and that these technologies will work together to enable new devices and form factors.
Future Growth for Wireless Power
A number of companies have already achieved FCC accreditation for their technologies and others are expected to soon. SAR expects wireless power to start to be commercialized from 2019 onwards, likely deployed in commercial applications initially, moving more widely into consumer products, transportation and other applications in the next 2-3 years. Today this is being driven by small, focused companies but this is expected to change with M&A activity accelerating as the technology improves.
Author: Peter Cooney, SAR Insight & Consulting
Copyright January 2018
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