Wireless Charging. Is it Actually Here?
How many devices do you have to charge on a daily basis? 2, 5 or maybe 8 (hey, some have electrical toothbrushes too)? You have to admit it: irrespective of the number of devices you possess, the process in itself is a big pain in the ass. Charging them simultaneously would be the optimal solution, but how? DING, DING, DING!! Wireless charging, Tesla’s old battered idea that’s been recycled over and over again for ages. But does this wireless charging, now in 2016, look like wireless charging after all, or more like wireless charged? We’re gonna see next.
Present standard technology
The wireless charging trend was and still is dominated so far by Qi standards, that is to say charging surfaces that interact only with devices that have built in Qi technology (like Nexus 5, for instance). An example in this sense is the UK based company aircharge, that offers round, easy to install, 80mm wireless charging pads, suitable for most desk grommets. The pad is plugged to a power source, like a socket or PC, and voila, the energy transfer can begin. Still this looks more like wireless charged rather than wireless charging, since the pad functions on the same old principle of electromagnetic induction. According to it, a transmitter equipped with a an induction coil and connected to a power source sends energy to a receiver; energy which is then converted back to electricity. The receiver has to be in the transmitter’s range to be able to collect it and can be a built in device or a separate one connected to a battery. More like what the guys at aircharge are doing. So what do you do if you don’t have a built in device? You create gadgets that do so. aircharge solved the problem by offering phone cases for smartphones without Qi standards (only for iPhone 6 and 6S so far). ChargeSpot, a Toronto company, operates on the same principle as their UK counterparts. Their USP lies though in their product called ChargeSpot Spark, which is a sleek wireless charging receiver, more like a flat, slim yoyo, that allows almost any phone to charge on a ChargeSpot pad – thanks to it’s Apple Lightning and microUSB connectors. Both companies are pretty wireless charged oriented. So where’s the big deal?
The Big Boys
Two companies are closer than ever to Tesla’s idea. XE and Ossia are head to head in this competition. XE, a Ukranian start-up, has discovered a safe way to transmit energy at a 5 m radius. So far the technology resides into a 15X15X40 cm charging station, with a nominal rating power of 2,5 W (maximum output 5 W) and a 3 mm phone case, with a built in antenna and buffer battery. The trick lies in the antenna, which based on the device’s operating frequency (somewhere under 100 MHz), should be a big one; however they succeeded to incorporate it into a 6/6S iPhone case. In the upcoming future XE will offer cases for other phones and devices too, such as tablets and household products. When asked about the future of the company, CEO Ivan Chuba replied strategically: “We’re going to license it as much as possible. It makes no sense for us to try to go after the whole market. Maybe some of the phone vendors will want to include the charging element in their devices.” Sounds pretty logical and profitable. But what does Ossia have to say about this? The American company Ossia has launched the Cota, a gigantic charging station that charges everything in its 10 m radius. How does it work? The station is bundled up with hundreds of dormant antennas that project radio waves of 2,8 GHz at a 100 Hz frequency, a frequency bigger than those of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. What I mean by dormant is that they don’t actual emit signal continuously. In fact, when a device needs to be powered up, its Ossia transceiver (transmitter and receiver, all in one; Ossia IP too) sends information regards its power level to the Cota station, which in return sends back a radio wave to locate the device. Once the device is located, its transceiver will return back the initial radio wave, which will allow the energy transfer to begin once the charging station will have finally received it. Pretty interesting, right? The only problem is that these radio waves can be absorbed by mediums, such as walls, clothes or human beings. However, Ossia’s CEO Hatem Zeine, says that this disadvantage works in Cota’s favor, as it reduces Ossia power station kilowatt/hour consumption. As for security and health related issues, Cota is safe as it distributes as little as 1 W during the whole day, despite the 300-500W consumption required by its base. The same goes for XE too, as its under 100 MHz frequency makes it non-harmful for the human environment.
The race is quite tight, though new players could at any time step in. It remains now to be seen, what will the general and business public prefer? Charging pads, self-chargeable phone cases or built in transceivers?
Be sure to submit your ideas in the comments below. Looking forward for your opinion.
Andrii Degeler, Ukranian startup: We’ve solved long-range wireless charging.