Wireless Power: Enabling the Future

David Meng, Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer

Much of the current excitement around wireless power focuses on the freedom that comes with cutting the charging cable from our handheld mobile devices. But the true game-changer may be what it means for enabling the IoT, where nearly every aspect of our environment is a node for a smart, connected and data-driven ecosystem.

WirelessPowerIn the near future, complementary modes of wireless power, whether via higher-power resonant magnetic coupling or a low-power stream of uncoupled RF energy, will be integrated into everything from smartphones and laptops to smart thermostats, video cameras and a multitude of wearable electronics.

As a result of being liberated from all physical interconnect, electronic product design will undergo a paradigm shift. There is now a compelling reason to optimize device power consumption to be ever more efficient in order to facilitate wireless power charging over distance. It is no longer just about extending time between charges. In many static applications (e.g. smart door locks, smoke detectors, occupancy sensors), it is also an opportunity to eliminate disposable batteries, or perhaps batteries altogether in favor of a perpetually sustained, constant source of remote power.

With accelerated advancement in machine learning and AI, we are preparing for and will be able to effectively process an unprecedented amount of data soon to be perpetuated by our digitally-connected surroundings. Data from these unshackled and wirelessly charged devices will not only provide OEMs, service providers and consumers extensive information to manage their environment, but also real-time digital power consumption data from billions of consumers worldwide. Ultimately, the copious amount of data flowing to and from the IoT will serve to enrich our lives in ways we never knew we needed. However, before that can happen, electronic device makers must realize this vision by cutting the last cord.

Most electronic devices have been manufactured to power requirements that never anticipated the availability of safe, compliant wireless charging technology.

Today, for example, many household electronic devices draw ~5 Watts on standby, with peak consumption exceeding 10 Watts. However, if properly designed for power efficiency, they have the potential to be reengineered to operate with less power and still maintain functionality. Once these devices consume <0.5 Watts on standby, even if consumption spikes during critical functions, they can still draw enough power from a rechargeable energy storage medium and return to standby to allow that battery to wirelessly recharge and top itself back up. Clearly, an intelligent and efficient power design paves the way for devices to be untethered and independent from hardwire installations. As PoE (Power over Ethernet) was once a release for devices to be free from AC power dependency; soon wireless data transmission will push all cables to cease to exist.

Consumer Adoption
In 2017 alone, wireless charging receivers are expected to be embedded in about 500 million devices and could grow to 1.5 billion in 2022. IHS Market‘s research data reveals that 90 percent of consumers want wireless charging and 98 percent who have it liked the overall experience.

Future generations of smartphones from Apple, LG and Samsung even BMW and Nissan EVs are primed for some form of wireless charging. Within the automotive cabin, over 60 new vehicle models are being equipped for wireless charging support. These companies will join Starbucks, McDonalds and other public infrastructure establishments to deploy wireless charging to keep up with new expectations for an improved customer experience.

Global Market Insights predicts that inductive wireless charging will reach more than $10 billion by 2023. The RF wireless charging market could exceed $3 billion by 2023, with a CAGR of 40.5 percent from 2016 to 2023.

Unexplored Benefits
Beyond the apparent advantages of wirelessly powering devices for improved spatial freedom and an enhanced charging experience, the world has yet to tap into the lesser-known and latent benefits of wireless power. This is true especially for product applications which have been historically plagued by physical interconnect.

One such example is when an application has a critical need for ingress protection. Be it dust, water, air pressure or a combination of these environmental hazards, allowing sensitive electronics to be hermetically sealed can pave the way for yet more design freedom and a new generation of products. Imagine marine applications that will no longer be compromised by the loss of enclosure integrity due to physical interconnect. Perhaps it will lead to a new generation of submersibles that could stay submersed and recharge at an underwater charging station? Even closer to home, what if a new era of plumbing offered water pipes with imbedded sensors for lead and other heavy metal detection? What about smart pressure sensors in pipe joints that could detect water or gas pressure loss and report its location in real time to pin-point potential leaks?

The vast number of possibilities are staggering, and the possibilities are profound. The world as we know it could be drastically changed, and the catalyst for that change could very well be wireless power transfer. Our limitations are defined only by the boundaries of our ingenuity as we venture forth into a brave new world. A connected world, unplugged.

mengDavid Meng is Co-Founder, Chief Technology & Chief Marketing Officer of PowerSphyr. Based in the San Francisco-Bay Area, PowerSphyr has developed a first-to-market, multi-technology wireless power architecture that supports RF-to-DC, Magnetic Resonance, as well as backwards compatibility for legacy inductive charging (e.g. Qi, PMA). Through proprietary and patent-pending technologies, PowerSphyr delivers wireless power to mobile phones, wearables, medical devices, and industrial sensors without physical cords, cables or a dock. PowerSphyr is the only solution that seamlessly optimizes near-field and far-field energy transfer. For more information, visit www.powersphyr.com.

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