Companies tout future of wireless recharging

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Companies tout future of wireless recharging

Smartphone battery running low?

You are not alone. With millions of mobile devices handling more tasks, batteries are draining faster, forcing the industry to look for solutions, including wireless charging for a power boost on the go.

Many solutions were on display at the Consumer Electronics Show this week, but consumers may be confused by the number of competing platforms and standards.

The Wireless Power Consortium, which includes about 100 companies and has 130 products certified under its standard, known as Qi (pronounced “chee”), used the Las Vegas show to promote the concept last week.

The consortium works with makers of smartphones and producers of charging pads, furniture and automotive consoles that enable a consumer to simply place a device on top for a charge without plugging in.

“This is the only consortium that has real products on the market,” said CJ Moore of Fulton Innovation, one of the technology firms behind the group that also includes Nokia, LG, Panasonic and Texas Instruments.

Members are deploying charging pads and stations which can be used in homes and also at airports, coffee shops and other locations.

Moore, who was showing visitors a variety of charging pads and sleeves, noted that members have about 130 certified products and 10 million devices in use.

The consortium said Qi chargers will be available this year in the Toyota Avalon, as well as in audio and video products and furniture. IHS analysts expect the industry to grow to nearly 100 million shipments by 2015.

The French firm Gidophone, whose 100 Qi charging stations in Europe allow charging for a fee, said it plans to expand to the United States.

But two other alliances offered their own platforms for wireless charging, using different technical norms.

The Alliance for Wireless Power (AWP), whose 30 members include Samsung, Qualcomm and Deutsche Telekom, said it would launch its own products using what it described as a superior platform.

“Consumers prefer to charge multiple devices at the same time,” said alliance president Kamil Grajski, as he showed a news conference various planned devices, such as coffee tables and car consoles.

Grajski said previous efforts have failed to generate enough participation over the past few years, and his group is offering “a next-generation” wireless charging option.

Some companies, including chip and component makers, are members of both alliances. So is Samsung, though representatives of the Korean company said it is committed to AWP.

A third group called the Power Matters Alliance, backed by Google, AT&T and Procter & Gamble, said its membership has tripled in the past month. Its board now includes AT&T and Starbucks, and the U.S. government’s Federal Communications Commission, as an observer.

The PMA standard is being tested at Boston-area Starbucks with Duracell, a P&G unit. Delta Air Lines has installed PMA-compatible charging spots in airport lounges, and General Motors plans to put in compatible charging consoles.

Ariel Sobelman, PMA president, said the group includes “undisputed leaders in their respective categories” and is working on “a real-world wireless power ecosystem here and now.”

Jack Black, a scientist with Qi alliance member DLS Electronics, said the Qi system remains an open platform, which allows more companies to easily participate.

NXP, a Dutch semiconductor company, is producing components that allow chargers to use multiple standards. “We are thinking about a solution that recognizes your device and charges it,” said NXP’s Kai Neumann.

But the future may have other options, including more durable batteries, improved antennas and devices that better manage power.

Stu Lipoff of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers said companies also are investigating technologies “where you can put a transmitter in the room and it will charge the device” from several feet away.

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