Charging gadgets wirelessly today generally uses one of two technologies: Magnetic induction or magnetic resonance. Consumers likely don’t care which is used but resonance lets you charge a device over distance while induction alone doesn’t. And that’s appealing because you don’t have to precisely line up a phone or tablet on a charging pad to recharge the device.
What if you could just place your phone near a charging pad instead? That’s the idea behind WiTricity’s technology said the company’s President and CEO, Eric Giler during a conversation on Thursday at the CES. This video demonstration shows how the system works by placing gadgets on or even nearby a pad equipped with magnetic resonance coils:
I’ve seen magnetic resonance solutions before but I hadn’t seen how a wireless power repeater works. It could allow you to place a wired charging pad under a nightstand, for example, and have a wireless repeater in the top drawer: Drop your gadgets anywhere on that nightstand and they’ll re-charge.
So how do you get WiTricity products? Generally, you don’t; at least not directly, as the company works with partners that want to use the technology.
However, at CES the company did introduce a wireless charging pad and case for the iPhone 5 and 5s. It’s really a reference design says Giler, however WiTricity does plan to sell the pad for around $99 in the coming months, with the case likely priced at $49. I’m hoping to test one for myself as the product gets closer to launch.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the wireless charging standards that are currently competing to be “the one.” Giler told me that WiTricity is generally agnostic when it comes to standards groups but to keep an eye out for A4WP, or the Alliance for Wireless Power, which changed its name to Rezence last month.
Intel is an A4WP member and was involved in a $25 million Series E funding round for WiTricity back in October. Where Intel goes, Giler suggested, others will follow. Intel is also using WiTricity’s technology for a wireless charging bowl it demonstrated at CES: Just drop your wearables in the bowl and they start charging. Giler also told me that WiTricity’s new iPhone charging pad could be A4WP compliant with a firmware upgrade so the company is clearly prepared for meeting the standard if it chooses.
Instead of fighting over standards though, WiTricity is looking at ways to quickly bring this technology to consumers. Giler showed me a AA battery for example that can recharge wirelessly while still in whatever device it’s powering. That could help move consumers off of disposable batteries which are far more expensive in the long run.