Distance Wireless Charging Made a Minor Comeback at CES 2022

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imagine if The smartphone in your pocket, the gamepad in your hand, or the watch on your wrist can all charge wirelessly. No cables, no wireless charging pad. Like Wi-Fi, wireless power is simply insured by the router via the air. It’s easy to understand the potential benefits of medical devices, sensors, cameras, and other battery-powered gadgets. Wires and cables are clumsy, and batteries are expensive to produce and difficult to recycle.

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I first saw wireless power, also known as distance wireless charging, in action seven years ago and was amazed. A small transmitter panel wirelessly operates a light bulb across the room up to 30 feet away. Since then, I’ve seen similar technology powering everything from E Ink displays to earbuds and smartphones. But working prototypes and reference products are one thing. It’s been more than a century since Nikola Tesla proved that wireless power at a distance was possible, drawing crowds by demonstrating a large transmitter coil that powers distant incandescent electric lamps. Implementing that technology in consumer products that we can buy is an entirely different ball game.

After years of backtracking, technology made a little resurgence in 2021 and on CES 2022 Technology Trade Show, progress, but you Still Don’t expect distance wireless charging to be rolling out to many of your household items anytime soon.

signs of progress

Last year, Motorola showed off Wirelessly charge a smartphone up to 10 feet away from a transmitter and charge up to four smartphones simultaneously at close range. Xiaomi And Opposition Similar techniques teased. This year, Samsung’s Echo TV remote made our best short list of CES 2022. Its predecessor relied on solar power, but the new model adds radio-frequency (RF) harvesting. It captures the radio waves bouncing around your home, which are emitted by devices like your Wi-Fi router, and converts them into energy.

Developed by Samsung’s research and development division, the technology was refined as part of a company-wide campaign by the TV group to be more environmentally friendly. Instead of a battery inside the remote, there’s a super-capacitor that combines solar and RF harvesting to charge up to 80 percent capacity in just 10 minutes.

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This innovation is clever and exciting, but it only works for smaller devices that don’t require much power. That’s why many players in this space target gadgets like E Ink displays for supermarket shelves, wearables and Internet-of-Things (IoT) sensors. Most devices require significantly more power than a TV remote, making a dedicated transmitter (which is not your Wi-Fi router) necessary.

ie quota transmitter

photo: she is

“The key behind our Kota Wireless Power Technology is that we can power devices from a distance, control the power and prioritize which devices receive it, but we can also power devices in motion. can,” says Hatem Zien, founder, president and chief technology officer or, one of the most prominent names in distance wireless charging.

Ossia announces partnership with CES 2022. tablet manufacturer in archos, showing concepts for charging a smartwatch, camera and SOS button to help care for the elderly. The idea is that wireless power can charge these monitoring devices to track the wearer 24/7. Ossia also unveiled the Kota Table, which is powered wirelessly by a Kota panel on the ceiling, with a Qi wireless charging pad and a battery inside (it can also host a USB port). The table is intended for cafes and places where cabling is difficult and the flexibility to change seating arrangements is prized.

The quota system delivers a few watts of power over close range but drops to milliwatts with distance and stops being meaningful at about 30 feet. Efficiency is a thorny issue, as there is a huge discrepancy between the power you expend and the power you recover. It has three parts: converting power from the outlet to RF, transmitting and receiving RF waves, and converting RF into direct current in the receiving device. Many variables make it difficult to arrive at definite figures, but for the percentage of power recovered, we are talking about efficiency in the single digits up to the high teens.

“An AAA battery can cost 50 cents and provide you with a watt-hour of energy,” Zein is quick to counter. “If you buy power from a wall socket, you’re buying a kilowatt-hour of energy for 10 cents, so the battery is 5,000 times more expensive.”

This is a strong argument. The price of lithium is increasing due to the demand for batteries. To realize the promise of IoT, we need an alternative to batteries, and wireless power is conceivable.

Security and Certification

All of these techniques involve a handshake process between the transmitter and the receiver which cuts off the radio frequency beam when there is an obstacle such as a person. Companies are required to jump through hoops for Federal Communications Commission certification to prove their technology is secure, but this is given on a per-device basis after practical tests conducted by an independent third party The reason is that research moves very slowly. Another major obstacle is the lack of a common standard. Consider how long it took for the Qi standard to conquer and become ubiquitous in the close contact wireless charging scene.

But a decade later, Ossia has little to show beyond concepts. When I asked where its technology is in use today, Zinn told me that Walmart is operating quotas in distribution centers for inventory tracking and asset management. Toyota is testing its feasibility to replace the wiring in cars, where it could power the sensors and make them easier to replace. Partnership with Spigen (Announced at CES 2019) To develop wireless charging phone cases have yet to bear fruit.

it’s a similar story energetic, which has announced an impressive range of partnerships and has demonstrated its WattUp technology several times but is yet to reach consumers. Technovator The market hasn’t gone. Vitricity converted to electric vehicles. Powercast was one of the first companies to release consumer equipment, a Wireless Charging Grip and Transmitter for Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controllers, but it costs $150 and has a range of only around a foot. A killer product for adoption remains elusive.

leveling up

Teacher, the company behind Motorola’s demo, may be a few steps ahead of its peers. It uses RF lensing to send a focus beam from a generating unit (Gu) to a recovery unit (Ru). Ali Hajimiri, a Guru cofounder and its chief scientific advisor, shows me a pair of tiny chips with built-in antennas about the size of a Lego block and says the company has developed flexible materials that allow the technology to be used in a variety of ways. Enables the equipment to work. ,

“We’re the only company that can power several watts of power to multiple devices at the same time on multiple meters,” Hajimiri says.

I first met Guru at CES 2020 to see the Rovi, a robotic vacuum-like mobile transmitter that moved to charge various devices, enough to beam a useful amount of electricity. Since then the company has made progress. Its technology combines an integrated ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit), an intelligent algorithm that can rapidly and efficiently focus energy on a small space, and, crucially, deliver more power over long distances. for high frequency.

Most of these technologies started at the 2.4-GHz frequency we’re familiar with with Wi-Fi, and it’s also the frequency that charges Samsung’s new remotes most effectively. The Energous uses a 5.8-GHz frequency, and Ossia is converting to 5.8-GHz with its Cota technology. Part of the Guru’s secret sauce is its ability to operate at 24 GHz. This leap not only means more power and longer range, it also allows for smaller transmitters and receivers. A generating unit the size of a smartphone can charge an earbud from a distance of several feet.

“It’s like a magnifying glass where you can focus energy on one spot, but that spot can move, and you can create multiple spots,” Hajimiri says.

chicken and egg

This need for transmitters and receivers embedded in our products hinders the early adoption of wireless power over distances. It sounds convenient, but who would spend hundreds of dollars on a power router that supports a limited number of devices or requires another retrofit add-on to work?

“I think a good analogy for this technology is Wi-Fi,” Hajimiri says. “In the early days, you had to buy this big, clunky PCMCIA card to put in your laptop, and a lot of people would say, ‘I’ll never use Wi-Fi because my Ethernet cable is 100 times faster.'”

Wi-Fi has improved a lot, and we take the performance hit for the convenience of going wireless. Power can follow the same trajectory, and there are other potential benefits.


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