Wireless charging — the ability to toss your cell phone on your table and have it charge without a plug — has for years failed to reach its disruptive potential. But now that some of the first instances of wireless power have started to fall into consumers’ hands (subscription required), we’re getting a clearer picture of how interested the average Joe will be in the technology. According to a report from the researchers at In-Stat this morning, close to half of consumers surveyed are willing to pay around $50 for the ability to use wireless power.
As a result of that high(ish) price point, the market could grow into a $4.3 billion revenue industry by 2014, according to In-Stat. One of the reasons a significant portion of consumers would be willing to pay that price is because cell phone owners find that the often proprietary mobile charging solutions are annoying, according to the In-Stat survey, although, micro-USB regulations will change all that by 2012.
However, if a lack of standards is at the heart of the current mobile charging problem for consumers (and not, say, the annoyance of plugging in), they shouldn’t expect that to change for wireless power in the short run. As Stacey points out in her GigaOM Pro article, there are two types of inductive wireless power: One is promoted by the Wireless Power Consortium, which relies on delivering power through magnetic contacts between the device that needs power and a charging mat. The other, promoted by Intel and WiTricity, relies on magnetic resonance and may one day transfer power without requiring device contact, although it still needs an electrical connection from a wall outlet or a battery.
The In-Stat report points out that competing technologies threaten “to fragment the industry and foster incompatibility.” While few device makers will have the heft to drive their own standards, a couple do, says In-Stat Chief Technology Strategist Jim McGregor. Those include “Sony, Apple, Qualcomm, and Samsung.”
For now, wireless power will largely remain a technology for niche devices (think your electric toothbrush), but cars could be one of the areas that will see more adoption of the technology. In-Stat says that two-thirds of integrated wireless power solutions could emerge in the car, when consumers want to place their cell phone in a dashboard dock and have it just wirelessly charge.
Cars could eventually use the wireless power in a more important way: to charge up electric vehicles. Startup companies such as Evatran have developed wireless power solutions, where an EV can drive over a mat on a garage floor to charge up. Nissan says it’s looking at wireless charging for its early EV models, and the WiTricity group recently landed a deal with auto parts giant Delphi as a partner.
Given it’s taken cell phones so long to get some of the first wireless power applications, don’t expect average car owners to turn to EVs or wireless charging of EVs anytime soon.
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