Wireless Power Standard Years Off as Battle Heats Up
|Nokia’s Lumia 920 will include wireless power technology.|
Battle lines were drawn for wireless power technology this week, as Google and AT&T backed one standard, while Samsung and chip maker Qualcomm announced their own. The two camps join a competition with yet more companies backing their own formats for how users will charge your mobile devices without plugging them in.
Wireless power requires a transmitter that provides the power and a receiver in the device that gets the charge. Several groups have come out with incompatible standards for how this power is provided, and currently few devices have any type of built-in wireless charging.
The Power Matters Alliance (PMA), which Google, AT&T, Starbucks and other companies now back, includes technology from Duracell’s Powermat product, such as the $100 iPhone 4/4S 24-Hour Power System. Powermat uses inductive charging — similar to the technology used to charge an electric toothbrush. It requires the transmitter and receiver be close together, placing the mobile device on the charging pad.
Samsung and Qualcomm’s Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), also announced this week,promises more flexibility in wireless charging. Instead of induction, the standard will use magnetic resistance to transmit power, which means the transmitter and receiver don’t have to be in direct contact. No products with this technology are yet on the market.
These two join the arena with the Wireless Power Consortium, whose members include LG, Motorola and Nokia. This consortium calls its specification Qi (pronounced “chee”) and uses a variation of inductive charging not compatible with the Power Matters Alliance's. Qi will be included in the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows 8 phone, expected in November.
Meanwhile, Intel champions its own standard, called Wireless Charging Technology. In August, Intel announced plans to integrate transmitters into the chips that power laptops. Its standard will use magnetic resonance technology.
Jason dePreaux, an analyst with research firm IHS, says that while some wireless power products are already on the market, companies are still a few years from establishing a single standard. The winner will need to include a universal, interoperable technology (as Wi-Fi is), be convenient to use and offer an inexpensive solution for companies to implement. The key, dePreaux said, is developing the infrastructure so that users can easily charge their mobile devices wirelessly at the airport, in the car, at home and at the coffee shop.