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With a major standards merger, we’re a big step closer to wireless charging bliss

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The Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and Power Matters Alliance (PMA) have set differences aside and joined forces in the wireless charging industry. The two groups will jointly consolidate their standards, they announced Tuesday. WiTricity also announced it will join the A4WP, bringing expertise in magnetic resonance charging, which can recharge devices across distances.

Powermat triple

Until now, the two standards groups have competed in the wireless charging market with similar but different technologies, making it a challenge for consumers to wirelessly charge smartphones, tablets, wearables and other devices.

As a result of the new agreement, here’s what’s going to happen next, per the news release:

  • PMA adopts the A4WP Rezence specification as the PMA magnetic resonance charging specification for both transmitters and receivers in both single and multi-mode configurations
  • A4WP adopts the PMA inductive specification as a supported option for multi-mode inductive, magnetic resonance implementations
  • A4WP will collaborate with PMA on its open network API for network services management

The standards consolidation means there’s one less barrier for consumers when it comes to choosing a wireless charging solution. Up to now, if you wanted to recharge your phone or tablet without plugging it in, you’d have to make sure your device was compatible with a particular wireless charging pad or case.

Powermat for iPhone

PMA products have long been available from Duracell and Powermat, for example, but if your phone uses a competing standard, it can’t be recharged from those. And if you’ve been to a Starbucks(s sbux) lately, you might have seen charging mats for devices. They can only recharge your phone if it works with the PMA standard, however, which few natively do. With a special case, you can use the charging pads.

The news of WiTricity joining the A4WP actually shouldn’t surprise anyone. When I met with the company’s president and CEO, Eric Giler, last month, he told me to keep an eye on the A4WP. He then proceeded to show me a demonstration of what Witricity could bring to the table — namely, wireless charging technology that uses magnetic resonance: A way to transfer power using magnetic fields without devices actually touching. Here’s the video demonstration:

While the A4WP and PMA agreement is great, most smartphones and tablets that can be recharged wirelessly out of the box use yet another, completely different standard called Qi, which is backed by another group: The Wireless Power Consortium (WPC). So we’re not yet on a single standard, which is something still needed to remove consumer confusion in the market.

Qi charging pad three phones

2 Responses to “With a major standards merger, we’re a big step closer to wireless charging bliss”

  1. Intriguing demonstration, but is this a road we want to start down? Is being able to charge wirelessly over a short distance really worth the risks, particularly in comparison to zero distance recharging, i.e. by placing the device on a pad or even through contacts in the base? It’s not like either of those is time-consuming or painful.

    I ask, because repeatedly, research has suggested that there’s a link between electrical/magnetic fields and leukemia, the most common childhood cancer. Some are looking at only the extremely weak fields generated by household wiring, levels far below those of focused power transmission. Here’s a quote from one article at the National Library of Medicine:

    “Numerous epidemiologic studies have reported associations between measures of power-line electric or magnetic fields (EMFs) and childhood leukemia. The basis for such associations remains unexplained.”

    I spent almost two years caring for children with leukemia. It’s not something any parent wants to face, particularly when the alternative is just a tiny bit more trouble recharging some gadget. We need to look and look hard before we leap into standards like these.

    –Michael W. Perry, My Nights with Leukemia: Caring for Children with Cancer