By Barry Levine / Mobile Tech Today. Updated February 11, 2014.
Could using wires to charge devices become a thing of the past? That often-mentioned possibility may have gotten a bit closer, following news that two competing standards groups will work together on wireless charging standards.
On Tuesday, two of the three wireless power standards groups, the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and the Power Matter Alliance (PMA), said that the new alliance is aimed at establishing global interoperability for their separate standards.
But this new collaboration does not include the larger Wireless Power Consortium group, which backs the Qi (“chee”) wireless charging spec.
1.7 Billion Units
According to industry research firm IHS Technologies, the global market for wireless power receivers and transmitters is projected to rise to 1.7 billion unit shipments in 10 years, from about 25 million this year.
PMA’s inductive wireless charging technology is used in Starbucks' and McDonald’s stores, and the organization has developed an open network API to integrate individual charging stations into a smart, wireless global network. A4WP focuses on resonant wireless charging, for which it has developed the only magnetic resonance tech spec. A product certification program, Rezence, supports this approach.
Magnetic resonant wireless charging allows more than one device to be placed, in no specific location, on a charging pad. Magnetic inductive wireless charging requires that the device and charger are coupled. The Qi technology, backed by about 200 companies, enables inductive charging as well as short-distance magnetic resonance charging.
Under the agreement, the A4WP Rezence spec will become the PMA magnetic resonance charging spec for transmitters and receivers in either single or multi-mode configurations. The PMA inductive specification will become an A4WP-supported option for multi-mode inductive, magnetic resonance implementations. Both organizations will collaborate on the PMA open network API for network services management.
Kamil Grajski, President of the Alliance for Wireless Power, said in a statement that the membership of these two organizations “consists of the key players necessary to drive industry consolidation and to establish a commercially viable, globally interoperable wireless charging ecosystem.” A4WP’s voting member companies include Broadcom, Intel, Qualcomm and Samsung Eletronics. PMA’s include Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, and Powermat Technologies.
Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, told us that “there is quite a bit of interest in this area,” not only for mobile devices but for wireless charging of electric vehicles and other hardware.
He noted, however, that it is not uncommon in the United States for two or more standards to co-exist in the market, until the market sorts them out.
In addition to powering various kinds of equipment, wireless charging mats could also become interfaces. Earlier this month, for instance, Apple received a patent for “device orientation based docking functions.” That patent describes the use of device orientation on a wireless charging mat as the trigger for such as actions as data transfer, data synchronization or diagnostics.