In 2004 I read an article about a company in England that had found a way to wirelessly charge portable devices, like cell phones and PDAs (remember those), by simply placing them on a charging pad. I was intrigued by their futuristic view of how the; auto, furniture. hotel, travel and restaurant industries would embrace the technology, so that you and your devices would never be far from a universal charging station. I have been following the progress of the technology ever since.
Earlier this week, after more than nine years of waiting, I wirelessly charged my cell phone for the first time. It felt good. Actually, I haven’t plugged my 1020 into anything since Monday. The list of “wireless charge capable” devices are growing rapidly. Almost all Windows Phones have the capability, along with select Android phones and tablets, either directly or via add-ons.
Big whoop, you say? Well, back in 2000 your could; move files between devices, listen to music on remote speakers, have a private conversation on your phone, use a mouse and keyboard with your PC, print, use a game console controller, and more. All with the help of wires, before Bluetooth became mainstream. Remember how much that sucked. This is only the beginning for wireless charging. Like most new technologies, adoption is going to start slow (after 12 years BT is “still” not available in every new car) and then I expect it will steamroll. I look forward to a future where new devices no longer come packed with a charging block and wire, and instead include a discount coupon for a wireless charging plate.
What kind of devices may benefit from wireless charging in the future? Here’s a few:
- Cellular Phones
- MP3 Players
- GPS Devices
- Portable Speakers
- Computer Mice
- Power Tools
- Rechargeable Battery Packs
- Game Controllers
- And everything else….
And where might you expect to find access to wireless charging plates and pads:
- Built into office and home furniture
- Airports, train stations and bus stops
- Planes, trains and automobiles. And busses too. (How about a pouch on every seatback for you to slip your device into and instantly start charging. And of course, with a sensor in the seat to remind you to retrieve your device when you stand up.)
- Inside/outside sports and concert venues
- Theme and amusement parks
- Restaurant dining tables
- Hotel room desks/furniture
- Any public place
Unfortunately, unlike Bluetooth and WiFi, where common standards were established early on, wireless charging is in a dogfight between two competing platforms; Qi and Powermat. It’s going to take some time before one or the other wins out. While most OEMs are supporting both standards (just in case), the line has been drawn in the sand with the likes of Energizer and Verizon on one side and Duracell (owned by P&G) and AT&T on the other. Judging by the way wireless charging may eventually change the way almost everything is powered, you can understand why the number one and two battery manufacturers are part of this fight, with what is at stake. In the meantime, lots of companies will sit the sidelines rather than risk making an investment in the eventual loser. Actually though, it’s the consumer who is really losing.
If necessary, I won’t mind needing to replace my Qi charging devices in the future. After all, it’s part of being an early adopter. But the next time needs to be the “last” time. Hope a worldwide standard is established sooner than later.
Qi – Wireless Power Consortium – http://www.wirelesspowerconsortium.com/
Powermat – Power Maters Consortium – http://www.powermatters.org/