Wireless Charging…Why Isn’t It Here Yet?!
Today’s version of wireless charging doesn’t quite encapsulate our imagination and vision of what wireless charging is really supposed to be. Today, ‘wireless charging’ almost seems like an oxymoron since your device is tethered to the product and the product is reliant on a wire to use.
Based on my experiences, there are three major reasons why the wireless charging we have all been promised isn’t yet here.
The Standardization War
Right now, there’s a standardization war between two predominant standards called ‘AirFuel’ and ‘Qi’ that is reminiscent of the great battles of the past like VHS vs Betamax, Blu-Ray vs DVD, and Snow vs Bolton. This battle has made many electronic manufacturers reluctant to choose one of the two standards.
Safety. This is usually one of the first things that comes to mind when you hear wireless charging. We all want to live in a wireless future, but we don’t want in a microwave. This is why the FCC limits how much power you can send based on electric and magnetic field strengths.
Wireless charging devices are currently classified as one of two instruments: Part 15 and 18. Magnetic resonance instruments aka resonant inductive charging pads can be Part 18, while pretty much everything else is Part 15. You can think of Part 15 as having much stricter approval standards, which has caused many obstacles for companies trying to advance wireless charging technologies other than magnetic resonance. For us, we avoid this obstacle by using magnetic resonance, but advancing it in new ways.
“Apple will get it done eventually,” said one of our focus group participants recently. I’ve heard this many times over the years. There seems to be an inevitability that the wireless charging we’ve all been promised will get done, but the technical hurdles are enormous and often aren’t understood or explained well.
It isn’t very hard charge a device wirelessly. Heck, Nikola Tesla did it in the 19th century at a distance of over 100 feet! What is very hard is to wirelessly charge devices practically. Tesla accomplished this feat using millions of volts to turn on his system…that’s a pretty darn big electric bill!
The fact is no matter what kind of wireless charging technology people are working on we can’t escape the laws of physics: the further away your phone is from the product, the worse the efficiency is going to be.
Sure, you can promise people that you’ll charge devices 1,000s of feet away. It is not in dispute whether or not this is possible, but if you did, what does that electric bill look like? We want to charge our devices wirelessly, but we don’t want to foreclose our homes in the process.
This is why we are focusing on a mid-range solution. We are capable of charging devices at distances 4 to 5 times the size of whatever the product is. This way a product the size of your fist can charge your phone in your pocket as you walk with it lying in your backpack or a slightly larger model can charge your phone at work, while you lean back at your desk, relax, and text at the same time. The wireless future we have all promised will come, but it may look a little different than what we’ve been expecting.