Wireless charging finally sees its star rise to the top

For years, the industry promised ways to once and for all remove that tangled nest of wires for battery chargers, which are multiplying as consumers add more connected devices to their repertoire. But after years of fighting over standards, more and more industry experts are saying 2015 is, indeed, shaping up for wireless charging.

"2015 will be the year of wireless charging," said David Recker, senior director, product marking in Broadcom's Wireless Connectivity-Mobility Group, in an interview with FierceWirelessTech. "Wireless charging, I think, is going to be very big."

Inductive coil technology, also known as tightly coupled, is backed by the Power Matters Alliance (PMA). It requires devices to be carefully aligned--or "tightly coupled"--with the battery charger, so if you're charging a phone, it needs to perfectly line up with the charging technology in a charging pad, for example.

At this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the PMA and Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) announced they would merge. That still leaves a third group, the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), which promotes the Qi chargers that are in McDonald's, Marriott and other public locations around the world.

A4WP's Rezence-branded wireless power transfer technology is based on the principles of magnetic resonance. It uses loosely coupled technology, so devices do not have to be perfectly aligned: Multiple devices can sit on top of a charger and charge at the same time.

The charger also can be built into furniture. If the charging technology is built to fit under a table, for example, patrons at the café can just set their devices on a table and let them charge as they go about their business. By using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), A4WP uses can accommodate multiple devices.

Then there are all those smart watches, wearables and mobile accessories to consider. "What's really nice about it is A4WP also allows you to put a phone at 90 degrees and still charge," Recker said. "Where that's valuable is on a watch," so if it has a solid band, the watch can sit on its side and get charged. "You have much more flexibility in your industrial design. You can make it waterproof; you don't have to worry about putting a USB cable in there."

Near the end of May last year, Broadcom unveiled an end-to-end wireless charging chipset with a "drop and go" mindset so that the consumer doesn't have to think about it. Broadcom's design enables multiple devices with different power requirements, like a tablet, smartphone and smartwatch, to charge at the same time without worrying where they're placed on the charging area.

At Mobile World Congress 2015, Samsung unveiled the Samsung Galaxy 6 with a WPC and PMA-compatible wireless charging battery. Considering that one of the world's most popular smartphone makers is including the technology in its flagship device, it's easy to see where wireless charging is headed.  

IKEA earlier this year said it will make Qi-powered bedside tables, lamps and desks available in Europe and North America this April, followed by a global rollout.

Others are chronicling 2015 as the year for wireless charging. In an EE Times post, Fady Mishriki, co-founder and CTO at wireless charging pioneer PowerByProxi, said 2015 will be an exciting year for wireless power. The year started with the merging of two standards organizations--a merger that most of the press seems to have misinterpreted as a merging of two standards--which it is not, he said.

PowerByProxi contributed a significant amount of its technology, intellectual property and expertise to deliver an efficient, backwards-compatible resonant wireless charging system to the industry. It now has the world's first resonant system compatible with the most widely deployed wireless power standard, providing companies like Samsung a "clear path to Resonant Qi with full backwards compatibility to Inductive Qi," Mishriki wrote in the post.

The WPC notes that 15 automobile models have Qi chargers built in or available as a factory installed option, and there are now more than 300 styles of Qi-certified wireless chargers for home and office use.

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