Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Powermat, Samsung, & Qualcomm form competing wireless charging alliance

Powermat, Samsung, & Qualcomm form competing wireless charging alliance
Wireless charging is a great idea; we have these precious mobile devices, yet they have to be plugged in on a regular basis (sometimes too regular) so they don’t die. Wouldn’t it be great if they could charge themselves when you aren’t using them? Even though the technology that allows this to happen (via charging mats and special back plates) has been around for a while, the expense and limited convenience has stopped it from seeing widespread adoption.
Apparently tired of the status quo, Powermat, Samsung, and Qualcomm have abandoned the existing Wireless Power Consortium to form the Alliance for Wireless Power, or A4WP for short (someone in the Alliance has been sending too many text messages…). They hope that by focusing on just the transfer protocol, and on pushing miniaturization of charging elements in mobile devices, they can spark more rapid adoption and also free users up to charge almost anywhere.

In short, the A4WP wants to make it cheap and easy to add the charging interfaces to smartphones (and tablets and laptops) without adding bulk, which would mean a lot more manufacturers would choose to include them by default. This would help solve the “chicken and egg” dilemma of OEMs not adding wireless charging to phones because most people don’t own the mats, and of the charging mats being expensive because not many people have phones to use with them.

The A4WP hopes that by increasing consumer demand and by focusing on the interface (not the surface itself) that a wider range of products will be built with wireless charging surfaces embedded in them. From coffee tables to car consoles to nightstands, the idea is that people would pay a small premium on several pieces of furniture or surfaces (office desk comes to mind) if the result was their devices were always charged, since most of the common places you’d set your phone or tablet down would have a charging surface built in.

This vision certainly appeals to us, although success will depend on how much an embedded charging surface adds to the price of a product, and how good it looks. What do you guys think – would you be interested in table tops and desks that would charge off of your mobile devices whenever you set them down? Or is that too much expense (or hassle) to set up in the first place?