Wireless charging has officially entered the mainstream. IKEA and Samsung have surfaced wireless charging in the consumer’s mind and created demand and conversations about the technology and its implications. A recurring question that we’re been hearing, however, is why the industry is still advocating the same close range technology that has been in use for the past 5 years, despite recent impressive demonstrations from Energous, uBeam and others.
Our answer is that there’s a huge gap between demonstrating technology viability and commercialization. A relevant example of how long it could take – Nicholas Tesla first demonstrated mid-range wireless power transmission in 1870. The mid-range technology is still in the process of commercialization.
We are very excited for the future though and the evolution of wireless charging technologies. Here’s a look at the current state and what the future might look like:
Three Types of Wireless Charging
Close range wireless charging uses inductive charging technology. This is the technology commercially available in the market right now and is highly efficient, cost effective to deploy and easy to design and work with. It has been certified and tested, and standards are in place to ensure compatibility.
Inductive charging supports a variety of devices and can be scaled up to support larger appliances, even vehicles.
Mid range wireless charging uses resonance charging. Resonance is right on the horizon, expected to be ready and available in the market in 2016. This will mark a significant improvement in user experience as wireless charging becomes more accessible and can be installed in more areas. Both Qi and Rezence (A4WP), leading wireless charging standards, are working on standards for resonance charging.
Long range wireless charging is under development using a variety of different technologies, including radio frequencies, infrared light, ultrasound etc. Long range charging is considered the holy grail of wireless charging, and while there have been successful demonstrations of various technologies, commercialization is likely a ways out due to FCC and safety testing.
Additionally, there are several concerns with long range wireless charging. Efficiency is questionable with long range charging as energy is lost to the environment. When the technology becomes available, it’ll likely only be limited to low power devices.
|Close Range||Mid Range||Long Range|
|Base Technology||Inductive||Resonance||RF / Other|
|Efficiency||High||Medium||Very Low to Low|
What the future looks like
We believe that these technologies will all eventually exist in the market with different applications. Inductive charging will continue to exist in environments where high power, efficiency and safety are paramount (appliances, vehicles, aircraft).
Resonant technology will form the base for consumer electronic devices like phones, tablets and laptops. We anticipate major leaps in wireless charging as resonant charging begins to be deployed commercially over the next few years.
Long range charging might still take some time, but once commercialized, will be great for low power devices for homes and offices, including sensors, remotes, etc.
With all of these technologies on the horizon, we are very excited about what the future holds and how these technologies will change our interactions with our devices and the environment around us.