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Technology Trends: Wireless Charging
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Technology Trends: Wireless Charging - Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: Wireless Charging

Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: Wireless Charging

Wireless charging for mobile devices has existed for several years, but recent developments in the technology have taken care of some major drawbacks, resulting in compact options that can handle multiple devices at one time. With better accessibility and lower pricing, providers of hardware and software are gearing up for a wave of new devices that could make the multitude and variety of charging cables little more than a memory. As this evolution takes place, the competition for standardization is being waged even as the competition for the hardware market unfolds.

At its basic level, wireless charging involves some kind of device (usually in the form of a pad, on which phones, tablets, and laptops can be rested) plugged into a power source. The charger takes electric power and creates an electromagnetic field. Devices needing to be charged are equipped with internal hardware that, when placed in the electromagnetic field, transform its energy back to electricity, which it stores in its battery. This method is called inductive coupling, and it differs from conductive transfer, which also works wirelessly but requires physical contact between metal components on the charger and device.

Advantages are plain: Not only are cables eliminated, but the hassle that comes with charging multiple devices at once can be eliminated. Rather than a power strip on a night table, with separate adapters and cables for phones, tablets, and backup batteries, a personal charging station can simply be the resting space for all devices with no specific adapters or cables. This also means less wear and tear on devices, and a decreased likelihood of cable-related accidents.

As manufacturers crank out the new technology, they must choose a format for wireless charging, a tech space where the standardization battle is still being waged. Many device providers have already chosen sides, and service providers are lining up as well. Some airports are providing wireless charging hotspots, and the concept is being tested in coffeehouse chains in major markets. Whether the standardization conflict will be resolved by an agreement on better technology (if in fact one is better than the others), by dominance of certain device manufacturers, or by parallel adoption by dedicated users across multiple protocols, as with separate store aisles for Apple versus Android devices, remains to be seen.

The major players in standardization have been Qi (pronounced “chee”), PMA (Power Matters Alliance), and Rezence (a standard promoted by A4WP, the Alliance for Wireless Power), with major hardware retailers lining up on competing sides. Even the coffeehouse space has been polarized: Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf stores in some markets are providing Qi charging stations, while some Starbucks stores are providing PMA charging stations. Last year, mutual adoption agreements between A4WP and PMA led to the announcement that the two organizations will merge into one new standardization alliance, bringing us closer to the one-or-the-other that once set the stage for format battles in VCRs and high-definition DVDs.

For the consumer, of course the usual cautions apply: early adoption means jumping in before pricing is reasonable, or going all-in on the standard that’s doomed to obscurity, but with those risks come the benefits of new technology without having to wait for solutions that already exist, not to mention voting with one’s wallet for the technology one prefers.

 

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