Wireless Power Is Still Pretty Useless

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The Powermat charging pad.

The technology industry has invested a lot of marketing energy and dollars into getting consumers excited about wireless power, the promise being that it will free us from the size and feature constraints imposed by batteries. There’s a consortium of bigwigs from Nokia  to Dell trying to advance a standard called Qi, and Intel and WiTricity are trying to develop an even more compelling technology that will transfer power over the air. But we’re still a long way from cutting the cord.

Consumers intent on living a wireless life have two new options this holiday season — both of which are getting a lot of attention: mats on which they can wirelessly charge their mobile devices. Unfortunately this sounds far cooler than it really is. The two products — the Powermat, which goes on sale Sunday at Amazon, and the Duracell MyGrid, which went on sale earlier this month — use different techniques to charge a device, but both require the mat to be plugged into an outlet, which eliminates the wire to the device, but not the one to the wall.

Moreover, as I explain in a new report over at GigaOM Pro, (subscription required) these products aren’t likely to change the industry much unless consumers really want to shell out $140 or more to avoid inserting a micro USB adapter into the port on their phone. That’s a lot of money for convenience. As I note in my report:

Wireless power mats are a lifestyle technology, says David Baarman, the director of advanced technologies at Fulton Innovation and the lead inventor of its eCoupled wireless charging technology. And lifestyle technologies, like Bluetooth, have to be standardized, cheap to implement and dead simple to gain mass adoption.

For real innovation, we’re going to have to wait for Intel and WiTricity to bring their wireless charging over the air capabilities to the mass market (or until solar or kinetic energy harvesting become efficient enough to deliver sufficient power quickly).

For more on today’s wireless power options check out the report, or our 10 Things to Know About Wireless Power.

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