back to article Watt? You thought the wireless charging war was over? It ain't even begun

The inductive charging standards battle of the past few years is formally over, only weeks after Apple entered the fray. But don't be thinking the wireless charging war is over. Things might be just hotting up. Last week wireless charging company Powermat quietly joined the Wireless Power Consortium, which certifies Qi- …

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The arguments advanced by both Energous and Ossia are typical of those with perhaps better technology but poorer understanding of the market. That Apple went with Qi suggests that they lost patience with alternatives. Qi's out there in millions, and possibly soon billions, of devices and is good enough™ as Andrew was quick to point out when it was included in Nokia phones.

It's going to be nigh on impossible replacing the devices and the infrastructure. All companies can hope for is having their technology bought an rolled into future iterations of Qi.

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What "infrastructure"? We are talking about a modern iteration of a mobile phone charger - ie just a bit of kit.

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Apple integrating Qi doesn't necessarily mean they have given up on Energous' strategy. Maybe they have developed something that will work both with Qi and with Energous. That would seem to make the most sense, since Qi has been around for a few years and Energous products will take time to be deployed (and probably be more expensive than a simple mat)

Perhaps Energous expected FCC approval in time for the iPhone 8/X launch and Apple wanted to tout distance charging but wasn't able to. There were rumors that the Homepod would have built in distance charging technology working at up to three feet - which is exactly the distance Energous recently got approval for. Perhaps the reason it was delayed was because Energous needed approval for the technology before Apple would be able to sell a device that incorporates it.

I think Apple realizes what everyone knows, that current wireless charging is nearly useless since it is restricted to a mat. Even at only 3' wireless charging would be a lot more useful, as it could be positioned near your workspace to charge not only your phone sitting next to you but your wireless keyboard and mouse. I doubt it will have enough power to charge a laptop, but maybe eventually.

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Surely unidirectional wireless is an incredibly inefficient approach to transmitting energy?

For distances of more than a couple of meters..

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Re: Surely unidirectional wireless is an incredibly inefficient approach to transmitting energy?

I believe that it only starts really pumping out the energy when it resonates with a receiving device. I may be wrong though.

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Re: Surely unidirectional wireless is an incredibly inefficient approach to transmitting energy?

I believe that it only starts really pumping out the energy when it resonates with a receiving device.

Maybe, but how's it going to do this? Without some kind of focussed beam you've got the usual dispersion problems.

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Re: Surely unidirectional wireless is an incredibly inefficient approach to transmitting energy?

A clear case of "Never mind the Quality, feel the Waste"

This is so inefficient (laws of Physics and all that...) and as an engineer, I really fail to see why there is all this Hype over wireless charging is going on.

Oh yes, people have become bone idle. Too lazy to plug the device in. No wonder there is an obesiety epidemic around.

Yes, I'm cynical, very cynical.

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Re: Surely unidirectional wireless is an incredibly inefficient approach to transmitting energy?

My Nexus 7's charge port gets damaged a lot in use. Something about the amount of force applied to a port that's installed on the short side, and leverage, I don't know. I can fix it (not everybody can) but I worry about accumulating fatigue on the parts.

So I've invested in several qi chargers that double as stands. Fiddly, but it works.

I pointed to this as a solution to someone on the forums who was experiencing the same problem, but lacked my repair skills. I also pointed to ifixit, who sells parts and gives away instructions. Google suggested he $hip it back for repair$. He liked the qi solution best, thanked me enthusiastically, and ignored Google.

All because I'm too lazy to plug it in next to my phone, yes?

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Re: Surely unidirectional wireless is an incredibly inefficient approach to transmitting energy?

I really fail to see why there is all this Hype over wireless charging is going on.

For mobile phones you can argue about the problems of mechanical connections but it is really about convenience in the home or office. Shared facilities such as those provided at airports offer actual efficiencies: single transformer, fewer cables, etc.

However, wireless charging is also appealing for industry. There is already a pilot service for electric powered-buses: no faffing around with plugging in a heavy duty cable, just park correctly and you're done. In this respect wireless charging has the same advantage of other contactless systems. None of these are really earth-shattering but they can still make sense.

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Re: Surely unidirectional wireless is an incredibly inefficient approach to transmitting energy?

> This is so inefficient (laws of Physics and all that...)

It is easy to raise the efficiency: just buy more lots more devices and scatter them about the room, as shown in the illustration. Of course this raises the company's revenue enormously too: a win-win for all (except the consumer).

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Re: Surely unidirectional wireless is an incredibly inefficient approach to transmitting energy?

The magic of resonance. The thing that lets Qi work.

In theory you can scale it up in range and power. Hams do it all the time with some of their more exotic antennas, where the transmitting element is not directly connected to the feed line. In practice any ham going above QRP levels recognises the importance of not standing near such a thing when in operation. At best your body de-tunes it. At worst every metal object in the area starts trying to kill you. Impedence matching has this way of turning a a nice save 20V input into a few hundred volts at the business end.

Engineers have been trying to get wireless power transmission to work in a practical way since Tesla, but the laws of physics are unforgiving.

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How about using some sort of MagSafe type thing?

I reckon it's the wear and tear/unreliability of small format physical friction power connectors that get used alot (aka microUSBs + and Lightning) that is the biggest annoyance. God knows how many of these go duff daily. The whole wireless thing is just a red herring to encourage sales of more (s)crap.

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Re: Surely unidirectional wireless is an incredibly inefficient approach to transmitting energy?

Yes, I'm cynical, very cynical.

Or, as we prefer to call it round here, a realist.

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Efficiency?

So what's (no name punnage here) the efficiency of these charging methods compared to bog standard wired approach (optimal and non optimal positioning of phone)?

And what are charge times like in comparison to wired?

Obv main efficiency problem in wired approach is transformer AC to DC conversion and heat generation in charging phone battery itself, but having never had inductive charging phone I have never investigated the kit to see what issues might be present there.

i.e. are there useful gains other than (less messy wires) aesthetics?

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Re: Efficiency?

It's possible that magnetic resonance is reasonably efficient as it's less likely to be attenuated by the air but then you have to worry about the strength of the field so you're talking about going from being on a mat to being just next to it. In practice I think bigger losses are incurred going between the various form of EMF.

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Re: Efficiency?

Plugs and sockets wear out, so that's one advantage of plugless charging. The socket on a device also is vulnerable to water penetration, so it's worth either sealing it or not having a socket at all.

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Re: Efficiency?

>Plugs and sockets wear out

What? not within a few years - my 2011 iPad2 still charges etc.

>The socket on a device also is vulnerable to water penetration

Solved problem: Rubber seals, modern waterproof coatings as seen on several vendors phones, magnetic conectors as seen on the MacBook...

Although agree if you try and charge your device with water in the socket, you may encounter problems...

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Re: Efficiency?

"Plugs and sockets wear out, so that's one advantage of plugless charging."

Qi charging inevitably generates heat: the bane of phone batteries. I gave up on Qi charging after long-term use forced me to replace several phone batteries as they started to bulge.

PS. I'm personally wondering how they get around the known physics issues of "power at a distance" and why it never really took off: then or now.

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Re: Efficiency?

Poxy Apple cables fray. Lightning connectors are fragile and fluff magnets.

Never understood why they couldn't separate data from power just like laptops etc. Couple of large-sized conductors on the outside of a device. Anyway, it's all moot as wireless charging will fix all that. Maybe.

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Re: Efficiency?

"Never understood why they couldn't separate data from power just like laptops etc."

Unlike laptops where some complexity is inevitable (otherwise, you can't use USB ports and so on), phones prefer to keep the outside as simple as possible, as any ports are potential points of entry for dust and so on, no matter how you try to reduce it with things like spring-loaded covers (the covers themselves can get fouled).

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I would recommend reading this...

...good bit of science and financial background on WATT and their claims.

https://liesandstartuppr.blogspot.co.uk/

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Re: I would recommend reading this...

Great tip, thanks.

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Re: I would recommend reading this...

Indeed, and with a claimed 100mW charging rate and a 10Wh battery, that's a four day charge time, assuming the device is switched off and near 100% charging efficiency.

Oh, and with an efficiency in the region of 1%, its green credentials are ground breaking, just not in a good way.

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Coat

Environmentally friendly?

The Ossia website talks of a 'clucky battery' so perhaps their experimental testing project involved powering a hen coop.

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Meh

RFI

Just wondering... which band are they planning to render unusable for radio communications purposes?

Has anyone raised this with ITU / CEPT / Ofcom / FCC about this?

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Re: RFI

Energous is FCC certified as of Dec 27th.

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Re: RFI

For the Energous device:

Part 18 of FCC regs on 915MHz, Part 15 on 2.4GHz Bluetooth. Part 18 covers non-telecomms RF devices like microwave ovens and covers SAR levels, which is why there's a 50cm "keep out" distance in front of the device. Unlike Part 15 devices, there are no specific power limits in Part 18, just the SAR level limits are applicable.

The 915MHz ISM allocation is specfic to the Americas only (ITU Region 1). I am not sure if there are similar regulations equivalent to Part 18 in other countries outside the US, but one thing's for sure, it's not global.

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Re: RFI

"Energous is FCC certified as of Dec 27th."

... for a four day charge time of your average cell phone.

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Re: RFI

Corrrection for the sake of the pedants, the Americas comprise ITU Region 2, not Region 1.

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More power!

"Ossia is advancing the Cota standard, announced in October. Ossia claims Intel's backing."

Well, they'll have to find a way of increasing the power transmission capability by 5-30% now.

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Effects on Humans & Animals?

How long before exposure to these rays (focused or not) bring about tumours?

Then followed up with lawsuits.

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Re: Effects on Humans & Animals?

Why is it always cancer that people are worried about? Quick answer unlikely at the suggested frequencies. I'd worry more about queasiness and disorientation for anything using magnetic resonance at the kind of power that would need to work at distance.

Anyway, with FCC approval any lawsuits can be sent to the government.

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Re: Effects on Humans & Animals?

" Quick answer unlikely at the suggested frequencies. I'd worry more about queasiness and disorientation for anything using magnetic resonance at the kind of power that would need to work at distance."

The trouble is that the 'side effects' won't be identified by those with any degree of technical knowledge, but by the sort of person who gets sick from a WiFi signal coming from three houses down the road - any attempts by reputable boffins to point out that the 'victim' isn't at risk will be dismissed as a $ConspiracyTheoryOfChoice coverup, because some random nutter on the internet obviously knows far more about it than anyone who's actually studied the subject in depth..

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Re: Effects on Humans & Animals?

Cancer, like radiation sickness, tend to be things that take a long time to become obvious, making it very tricky to trace what caused them in the first place. That's what makes things like radioactivity, genetic engineering, etc. so scary: you can't see the side effects right away, and by the time they do show up, it could well be too late to do anything to stop a disaster.

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Boffin

Re: Effects on Humans & Animals?

"That's what makes things like radioactivity, genetic engineering, etc. so scary"

Neither of those things are scary. They both demand respect when you're dealing with them (radiation more so perhaps), but they're only scary if you don't know how they work and their limits.

Most people don't find cars scary, but a car can kill with just one second's inattention, and yet we allow them to pass within centimetres of unprotected humans even though they kill far, far, more people than radiation of genetic engineering combined.

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Re: Effects on Humans & Animals?

But at least people know how cars kill people: they get hit by them. Just avoid them. But two REAL real fears are unknown dangers (or something so obscure as to be beyond our ability to picture it) and helplessness (aka foreboding: knowing something bad is coming but being unable to do anything about it). Like eating a "frankenfood" and finding out only decades later that it altered us to the state our children are defective and so on: by which time we're already past the point of no return.

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Faster Charging

Faster charging seems to be much more beneficial than wireless charging, which is slower by default.

The speed of wireless charging is the major obstacle to it becoming useful imo, no matter how much further away you can scale the actual charger.

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WTF?

Charge of the light brigade

A decade ago, mobile charging meant sending victims big bills detailing every phoney call or text message sent.

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I really hope...

...I don't need a pacemaker in the future.

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Go

I can't wait for car charging.

BMW developed a mat to charge a car... now picture the electromagnetic around this device when it is working.

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Efficient contactless charging using magnetic resonance at a few hundred kilohertz is safe and feasible but only with close coupling. I envisage a round ceramic container, possibly with a handle for easy positioning, (rather like a coffee mug), with an embedded resonant circuit in which you drop your mobile... oh... hang on...

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Hmm, Maybe...

Tesla had a great idea, free energy for benefit not profit.

Here we have energy with controlled profit and only those that pay will benefit.

Does this mean we will be password protecting this just like we password protect our wireless internet?

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Devil

My robot goldfish AI will know the difference between engineering and marketing.

I am one step closer to having a tank of tireless robotic AI goldfish to entertain me endlessly without the horrible mess of fishy wastes. Mwa ha ha ha! My project to recreate Red Dwarf in real life is going swimmingly! (BSC, SSC)

But seriously, does anyone really think that someone who plonks down hundreds of Euros (or worse, more) on a freaking phone, that they'll treat horribly, and then replace in a year simply because it's out of date, is really going to even so much as notice 2 Euros more on their electric bill due to their horribly inefficient wireless charger? Pffft. And the silly folk in the US care even less about the price of their leccy!

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