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Oh, no: not another wireless-charging group!

Over the past few years, wireless device-charging solutions have come and gone, never really becoming the promised holy grail of ease and convenience one would hope. In theory it sounds great: Just drop your gadget on a little mat, which itself is plugged into an outlet, and your phone or MP3 player sits there and charges away.

So what’s the problem? Too many cooks in the kitchen, as different companies back different standards. The latest effort is a brand-new group called the Alliance for Wireless Power, or A4WP.

On Monday Samsung, Qualcomm(s qcom) and Powermat Technologies announced the newly formed group, which is also backed by Ever Win Industries, Gill Industries, Peiker Acustic and SK Telecom. According to the A4WP press release, here’s the goal:

The independently operated organization’s mission is to promote global standardization of a wireless power transfer technology that offers spatial freedom, to develop product testing, certification and regulatory compliance processes, and to foster industry dialogue with regulators on wireless power policy development. The alliance is targeting a broad base of consumer electronic devices to establish a worldwide wireless power technology ecosystem.

The A4WP will focus on a new wireless power transfer technology that provides spatial freedom for charging of electrical devices in cars, on tabletops and for multiple devices simultaneously.

Now consider this “about us” blurb from the Wireless Power Consortium, which was formed in 2008 and has 100 members:

The members of the Wireless Power Consortium cooperate to make it possible that their mobile phones can charge wirelessly on each other’s chargers. Proprietary and incompatible chargers are a waste. Consumers get the most from wireless charging when their phone can charge everywhere. That is our dream. An open standard, free for all to download, easy to implement with broad support from the entire industry.

Aside from the A4WP bit on spatial freedom and more types of devices mentioned, it sounds to me like we already have a wireless-charging standard: The WPC backs a standard called Qi, and ironically after a few years of using proprietary technology, Powermat actually joined the WPC and backed Qi just last year. Samsung too is currently one of the 109 WPC member companies.

So what gives here? The only reason I can see for the new group is that Samsung, Qualcomm and Powermat feel the WPC efforts to be too limiting. It’s not just phones that these companies want to charge wirelessly but tablets, cameras and gadgets in cars, perhaps. Either that or Powermat sold Samsung and Qualcomm on its own proprietary technology, which uses custom device backs and/or batteries to provide the wireless-charging capability.

Either way, more groups trying to do the same basic thing is bad for everyone. There’s a reason we use standards for communications, wireless networks and even electricity. Trying to break out different ways to wirelessly supply electricity to a nearby device only fragments the products and confuses both the market and consumers.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved the Touchstone wireless-charging dock for my old Palm Pre(s hpq) in 2009, but for all of my other devices, it was as effective a charger as a hockey puck would be. One-off charging solutions specific to a certain device or a particular brand of device don’t add value. Perhaps to the device manufacturer they do, at least in the short run, but it’s bad enough that our devices are locked in by apps. Let’s not cut the cord and be locked in by how we get electricity to them too.

8 Responses to “Oh, no: not another wireless-charging group!”

  1. Featherlight

    A $2 problem tell that to the cartels or to the duggers. The charging pad can recharge multiple phones quickly. Also a new government mandate prohibits disabling a certain mini battery operated system for fear of safety, however that component fails time
    after time after time and again. This said component does not allow for just replacing the mini battery instead the manufacturers sell the part for $100 a piece. The part is not capable of surviving severe elements including extremely hot cold or wet. The automotive consumers need something that works is reliable and durable. Again key is there is a government mandate to never disable and consumers go broke. So I’d pay $100 for the solution that will eliminate a $400 expense twice or maybe 3 times in a year. The use of cable is not an option due to it being susceptible to failures by the severe natural element. The answer my friends is Wireless power.

  2. sorry bro but I’m still using a palm touchstone and it’s a pretty fast charger compared to anything my family members use.

  3. And again, if they can’t get devices (multiple devices in my possession) to adopt this techology, across vendors, I’ll stick to my $2 cables thanks. So probably not worth bothering with any of this.

  4. Madlyb

    This is a solution looking for a problem that aligns to it high adoption cost.

    First and foremost, the wireless component consumes space that could be allocated to battery capacity.

    Second, you have to purchase infrastructure for every place you would like to charge from and those aren’t very portable.

    So, at the end of the day, my investment is pretty large and the only thing it saved was from hooking up the cable.

    I’ll pass.

  5. Jp Checa

    It could be that A4WP is looking into magnetic resonance coupling to power devices. That technology has been tested with a range of six feet. Both Powermat and Qualcomm currently use inductive coupling which requires a charging surface, so adding MRC to their platforms adds “spatial freedom”. WPC, with their Qi standard, announced back in April that they were adding MRC transmitters to their inductive charging platform. So, it’s likely A4WP is looking to do the same.