LAS VEGAS -- Two companies, PowerCast and WildCharge, demonstrated new wireless power transmission technologies and products at CES. These new technologies are likely a precursor to major changes in the consumer electronics industry as a whole, including, one way or another, Appleis lines of Macs, iPods, and iPhones.
Wireless power transmission allows devices to receive a charge for either direct operation or to recharge internal batteries. Imagine your desk without power cords for your computer, iPhone, speakers, and even your electric pencil sharpener, should you have one, getting power without YAP (yet another plug). If that appeals to you, youill understand the change these technologies might represent.
WildCharge approaches the goal with base plate that has a conductive service. When any device -- the company was demonstrating MacBook Pros, iPods, iPhones, and other cell phones -- has the appropriate WildCharge adapter, placing it on this conductive surface will power the device or charge its batteries just as if it were plugged into a wall.
Several examples of mobile devices being charged via WildChargeis wireless charging solution.
Currently, the company is marketing its own adapters in the form of cases and external attachments. For instance, in the image below we see an iPhone case that has the adapter built into it. Simply lay that down on the surface above, and your iPhone will charge. Furthermore, one base plate can be used for any number of devices.
WildChargeis iPhone adapter/case.
WildCharge spokespersons on hand at CES told The Mac Observer that they were in talks with a number of unspecified companies interested in licensing WildChargeis technology and incorporating it directly into their products.
PowerCast is tackling this issue from a different angle, one that doesnit require a conductive surface and contact with an adapter. Instead, the company is transmitting power via a proprietary 2.4GHz wireless signal. Take a base station and equip a device with a PowerCast adapter, put the two near each other and you get power. As this solution is not conductive, proximity, not contact, is what is key, though trickle charging is possible across farther distances.
In this image, the demonstration device is removed from a base station, and is barely lit.
In this image, the device is sitting on top of a base station, and is lit.
PowerCast, however, appears to be at a much earlier stage in bringing its product to market. The devices being shown at CES, like the light shown above, were for demonstration purposes only. The companyis business model at this point strictly is a licensing model, and that means that companies like Apple will have to license and incorporate PowerCast technology before any practical products will be seen or used by consumers.
We should also point out that PowerCastis technology was first demonstrated at last yearis CES, but the company has further improved the technology -- "Itis very efficient," John G. Shearer, CEO and Founder, told us at the booth -- and was demonstrating new applications such as a "gun" that could beam power from several feet away and the desktop application as shown in the images above.
On the other hand, not requiring contact with a conductive surface means that there need be no external component on a device in order to achieve wireless power (see the image below). For companies like Apple that are obsessed with aesthetic industrial design, that may offer a more compelling solution, even if it is further down the road.
PowerCastis PowerHarvester chip is small,
showing in this image as the highlighted portion above the LED.
WildChargeis solutions are available to consumers today, however, and can be used to retrofit existing products like the 100 million plus iPods already on the market, and the many hundreds of millions of cell phones that are in use today.
Whichever approach finds acceptance in the marketplace, the key fact we gathered from visiting both of these booths at CES is that wireless power is well on its way, and will likely result in an even more impact on our electronic lives than even Bluetooth has so far delivered.