You come into your office and randomly place your power -depleted smartphone and tablet on your desk. A few hours later, when you're ready to use them, they're recharged. That vision of wireless recharging utopia is behind a new initiative called the Alliance for Wireless Power, or A4WP.
This week, wireless leaders Samsung and Qualcomm joined the alliance, which previously included Ever Win Industries, Gill Industries, Peiker Acustic, Powermat Technologies, and SK Telecom. The A4WP is looking to release standards that will help to create what it described as "a true and ubiquitous wireless charging infrastructure ."
This "spatial freedom," as the alliance calls it, would enable owners of mobile devices to charge their units without the spaghetti-like configuration of wires and AC adapters that currently populate charging areas. Devices could be charged without wires in cars or on furniture, such as tabletops or desktops, and multiple devices could be charged at the same time.
The standards would involve an easy-to-implement transmitter for the charger and a receiver for the device, a simple wireless power control system, and the ability for power to be transmitted through non-metallic surfaces. The standards would lead to wireless chargers that could replenish devices of various sizes and requirements, from Bluetooth headsets to tablets.
In announcing that Samsung and Qualcomm were joining the effort, the alliance noted that shipments of wireless-power enabled devices are expected to exceed 100 million within three years. But the obvious key is that, whether at home or at work, wireless power infrastructures must be compatible with each other and with the devices.
'Could Be Huge'
In addition to creating standards, the alliance will also develop a certification program, assist with regulatory compliance , and support a marketing effort that is intended to expand the technology's ecosystem.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, said compatible wireless power devices "sounds like a panacea" that, if it works, "could be huge."
Qualcomm already has a wireless power initiative, called WiPower Technology, which it intends to incorporate into A4WP's deliberations. WiPower uses near-field magnetic resonance technology, can charge through surfaces, and does not require a device to be precisely positioned on a charging area. However, to date the technology has had only modest success.
In January of last year, Qualcomm agreed to work with Powermat, which develops a variety of wireless charging products, to create wireless power solutions. One of the goals of that agreement was the development of an industry alliance, such as A4WP.
At the same time, Qualcomm announced a similar agreement to work with Duracell on developing an alliance. At the time of the announcement, a Duracell executive said in a statement that the industry is on the threshold of innovations "that can make power available just as easily as the Wi-Fi connections that are so familiar today."
In its most recent effort in this area, Samsung has released a wireless charging mat for its Galaxy S III smartphone.