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Wireless Power Consortium Pushes For Standard 221

Posted by timothy
from the how-about-a-wide-range-of-standards dept.
Slatterz writes "We've already heard about wireless power before, but now we're a step closer to throwing away our power cables and chargers. A consortium of eight companies has launched an initiative to develop a wireless power standard. The drive was announced at the first Wireless Power Consortium conference at the Hong Kong Science Park yesterday. Most consumer electronic devices require a different charger, and the resulting tangle of wires and bulky devices is 'ugly, frustrating and inconvenient to use,' the group said. 'Wireless power charging takes away the need for wires and connectors. You simply drop your mobile phone, game device, electric shaver on the charging station and the battery is recharged,' explained Satoru Nishimura, senior manager at Sanyo."
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Wireless Power Consortium Pushes For Standard

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  • But... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fxkr (1343139) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @07:03PM (#26166767)
    Isn't this "wireless power" stuff just a terrible waste of energy?
    • Re:But... (Score:5, Informative)

      by De Lemming (227104) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @07:15PM (#26166899) Homepage

      The Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] talks about efficiencies between 40% and 80% for near field transmission. Indeed, that seems like a serious waste just for the convenience of not having to plug in your device...

      FYI, far field transmissions using microwave can reach an efficiency of 95%, but I don't think you want such a beam in your house :-)

      • But... With one way to charge your stuff you may be able to get a better quality one. Those AC to DC converters take power even when they are not charging anything. If you make a nice near field transmission system. With say with a physical on off switch or a weight activated switch you can save power from having all those AC DC plugged in (unplugging them when they are not in use is really to much of a hassle for some locations to even consider making people switch).

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Valdrax (32670)

          How exactly does the power go from AC in the wall to the near field without going through a DC converter? How do you ensure that is not just sucking power out of the wall?

    • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @07:26PM (#26167031) Journal

      Isn't this "wireless power" stuff just a terrible waste of energy?

      Transformers (not the Hasbro sort) are basically two adjacent coils, with the difference in the number of windings on each side determining the voltage step-up or step-down.

      Here you have what is basically a transformer, just with the coils moved further away from each other. A 1:1 step ratio in a transformer is pretty efficient.

      You're not wasting electricity spraying electrons in the air like a water sprinkler, there has to be a circuit before potential can be moved from one coil to the other. Electronics can keep idle current to a minimum. Where's the problem?

      • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @08:07PM (#26167509)

        Many people leave their charging transformers plugged in, even when not charging their appliance.

        Since most of these chargers are cheap, they are not only highly inefficient when charging (how hot does your laptop power supply get?), but also consume power when not doing anything useful.

        Would need to factor these things in to properly judge efficiency of near-field charging, which can get above 80% if I remember correctly...

        • by Joce640k (829181)

          "these chargers are cheap" - you nailed it.

          Do you think this wireless charger will be cheap? How about we mandate a standard size plug and smarter chargers instead? You'd need less chargers so they wouldn't cost more overall.

          And ... if we made the connector a decent one we wouldn't be fiddling around with all those stupid, fragile microscopic connectors the 'phone people are foisting on us.

          If you want to save the planet, let's start making things that last.

          • A coil of wire is pretty cheap, so yes it would be cheap.
            They arent extremely complicated devices.

      • by Lazarian (906722)
        "Where's the problem?"

        Flux loss.

        • Would an ionised air channel produced by ultraviolet radiation work as a single conductor to bridge the air gap between two separated flux core sections? That might raise efficiencies by turning two separated core segments together into a virtual core. Such contact could be directional and aimed at a (say) painted target. Tesla seemed to think it you could get air to conduct that way (although this could be electric field only, not sure about magnetic flux, might have to switch it via low frequency RF).
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      They're talking about a near-contact charging station. That can be pretty efficient -- as others pointed out, a transformer can be VERY efficient and this is basically the same thing.

      Note that it's distinct from the charge-your-laptop-across-the-room style of wireless power, which IS very inefficient.

      • Note that it's distinct from the charge-your-laptop-across-the-room style of wireless power, which IS very inefficient.

        Anything topical or substantial available from old notes on Wardenclyffe? I mean the Tesla notes, not the liner notes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wardenclyffe_Tower/ [wikipedia.org]

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          I doubt it. This style of charging station is just a transformer except that the two halves are in different cases.

          Wardenclyffe Tower was designed basically as a radio transmission tower. It was supposed to demonstrate transmission of electricity over long distances through the air, which is exactly what radio transmitters do. For an example of widespread deployment, find one of those little transistor radios that can power themselves from the received radio signal.

  • by PolarBearFire (1176791) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @07:04PM (#26166775)
    Wireless power is only practical in short ranges anyway. With standardized cables I wouldn't have drawerfuls of power cables.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Because then the OEMs and hardware companies would be losing money due to consumers buying the same cable for their product from another, cheaper, company thus losing profit. If Dell sold replacement power supplies for their laptops for ~$20.00, and say since the cable is a standard HP sells the same one for $15.00, Dell would be losing some profit unless they change the connector on the cable to only fit their hardware, hence the "drawer full of cables" we all seem to have (except those in the A/V business
      • Because then the OEMs and hardware companies would be losing money due to consumers buying the same cable for their product from another, cheaper, company thus losing profit.

        Not to fear. The invisible rotting penis of the market will come along eventually and sort it all out.
      • by cdrguru (88047)

        The cost of these things is around $2 today. It has almost nothing to do with making money off sales of adapters and EVERYTHING to do with people plugging the wrong adapter into some device.

        You connect an 18 volt adapter to a cell phone and it fries the phone. You connect a 5 volt adapter to a notebook and it either does nothing or fries the adapter. In either case, there is a potential for fires and other liabilities. Just having it not work is enough for most manufacturers. You give people something

    • by Sabz5150 (1230938) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @07:48PM (#26167287)

      Wireless power is only practical in short ranges anyway. With standardized cables I wouldn't have drawerfuls of power cables.

      Which is precisely what they're aiming for.

      A standardized cable isn't gonna help you much when your mobile phone takes 5 volts to charge and your shaver or laptop takes 9 to 18. I imagine the technology would mimic proximity cards, you'd have a flat surface (say, a tabletop) and you'd sit your PDA, mobile, laptop, portable game system, etc. on it and depending on the number of windings in the receiving device and a small rectifier circuit, it would automatically receive the proper voltage.

      AC electricity is fun.

      • by Valdrax (32670)

        A standardized cable isn't gonna help you much when your mobile phone takes 5 volts to charge and your shaver or laptop takes 9 to 18.

        You know, if we were standardizing cables, there's absolutely no reason we can't create a very simple, low-power protocol for a multi-voltage transformer to query what kind of power a device needs. And there'd be no issues with trying to create a one size fits all solution for broadcasting power if you had a straight line between the power server and client.

        • by blincoln (592401)

          You know, if we were standardizing cables, there's absolutely no reason we can't create a very simple, low-power protocol for a multi-voltage transformer to query what kind of power a device needs.

          Wouldn't it be simpler to pick 24v or whatever as the standard and just have each device contain a voltage regulator that takes it down to the appropriate voltage? I have to imagine that would be cheaper than an intelligent multi-voltage system.

          • by Valdrax (32670)

            Probably. Electronics is not an area of expertise for me, I'll admit. I knew enough to realize that you didn't need wireless to get those advantages but not enough to think about an even more practical solution. Thanks for pointing that out.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Why is wireless better than a standardized docking station?

      Seems to me a docking station would always be cheaper AND more efficient than a wireless setup.

      The only difference to the user would be that you have to line it up neatly when you lay it on the charging pad. Would that inconvenience anybody?

      • by Sabz5150 (1230938)

        Why is wireless better than a standardized docking station?

        Seems to me a docking station would always be cheaper AND more efficient than a wireless setup.

        The only difference to the user would be that you have to line it up neatly when you lay it on the charging pad. Would that inconvenience anybody?

        Come home after ten-plus hours on the job and see how enthusiastic you are about lining up your pocket fodder. I just empty my pockets onto the little table next to the door. It would be real nifty if that's all I have to do to make sure they're fully charged for the next day. One less thing I need to worry about.

        As for cheap, all this would be is a coil under the surface... half of a transformer. Not too pricey and a whole lot more convenient than juggling a pile of wires.

  • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @07:04PM (#26166777)

    ...but that might not be such a good idea.

  • Mid Range Wireless (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rockNme2349 (1414329)
    Short range wireless power is alright, it makes charging a little easier, but the real revolution is going to be when an efficient method of mid-range wireless power is developed.

    If you can get wireless power in an entire room then we can finally ditch the last cord to our laptops, which is what consumers are waiting for when they ask for wireless power. If you have to put the items on a tray, it is a little easier, but it might as well be a dock or a physical connection. If you have power to an entire r
    • by jfeldredge (1008563) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @07:18PM (#26166923)
      Wireless power covering an entire room will have to wait until wireless devices' power requirements go low enough that the radiated energy won't be a hazard to the user. At the power levels currently used by laptops, the power source would have to emit enough energy that you would microwave-cook the user. The device described in this article is probably using short-range magnetic coupling, not radio waves; not a particular threat to health, but putting your laptop on top of the charger would probably scramble the hard drive.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by irae (1152885)

        putting your laptop on top of the charger would probably scramble the hard drive.

        With SSD that won't be a problem.

      • by poetmatt (793785)

        Well, not quite.

        The coils are designed grab a charge and pull it to it.
        It's not like an explosion where the power simply radiates everywhere. That's what we have microwaves for and why they are shielded. If the SSD is in the path of the charge, it would be impacted by it (shielded or not), but otherwise it's not like this will go everywhere for short range. The electricity leaps towards the coils, essentially.

        Long range is another game entirely, though.

    • by zmollusc (763634)

      Sod your stupid cell phone and laptop! This would be super awesome for my toy helicopter!

    • by IorDMUX (870522) <mark.zimmerman3NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday December 18, 2008 @07:43PM (#26167223) Homepage
      For my Masters Thesis, I designed a wireless powering system for a fully implanted bio-monitoring device for a mouse running around, untethered, in a cage [ohiolink.edu]. Now, a mouse is actually quite small, so our implant had to be about the size of a U.S. dime (actually, a bit smaller). The mouse was never more than a few cm away from the cage floor, but could move around, stand up, roll over, etc., so we could not make the powering system very "directed" in nature. As a result, our optimized average power coupling efficiency we near 0.08% (Page 25, specs on Page 95), which was actually pretty good for the application. It did mean that our implant needed to be extremely low-power, however, involving all sorts of power supply optimizations (Chapter 3), MEMS sensors, and the like.)

      The problem with trying to power your wireless devices anywhere in a room is similar, due to the fact that you can move around and change the orientation of your devices. As the ratio of power-receiving-antenna to "cage" is even lower, you are likely looking at even lower power efficiencies. Yes, you can perform all sorts of fractal antenna optimizations and the like, but, if you want to be able to receive power anywhere in the room, then you are limited by the laws of physics: If your powering system covers the whole room, your efficiency is limited by the simple ratio of the area of your receiving antenna in the plane parallel to the floor (or wherever you place your powering system) to the area of the powering antenna itself.

      The recent demos of wireless power by Intel and others have all involved highly directed powering antennae, where moving the receiver even a small amount cuts off the power supply. Directed power does have its uses, however. Imagine medical implants that can be powered in a short time by placing a directed antenna on your skin each morning, or even wearing a battery pack on your belt with a directed antenna to power a device with a built in radio communicator. No (highly infectable) wires penetrate the skin, no surgery is necessary to replace batteries that run low, and, even in the worst cases, you should still be able to remove the battery back for a time to perform certain functions (exercising, bathing) without losing device functionality.
    • by timholman (71886)

      If you have power to an entire room, your cell phone and mobile devices can charge in your pocket without you worrying, bringing the real convenience.

      It will never happen in the United States, mainly because a huge group of attorneys will be standing by, eagerly rubbing their hands and waiting for the first group of plaintiffs who will claim that midrange wireless power systems are responsible for headaches, arthritis, brain cancer, birth defects, leukemia, high blood pressure, etc.

      Has everyone forgotten th

  • I see the article is tagged with "cancer", which got me thinking: could all this energy going through the air cause cancer potentially? I know its only a few volts of direct current, but think of the spectrum and the (very high) frequencies of gamma rays and the like, could it be possible? I am no expert in this field by any means, but I have to ask.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Of course it could. Would it? Almost certainly not. Yes, if you were spraying around gamma rays then you would definitely cause some cancer. Wireless power doesn't do that - it uses far lower frequencies.

      Put it this way - see that lightbulb? It's spraying around watts of much higher frequency radiation than any consumer wireless device would.

      • by gardyloo (512791)

        Put it this way - see that lightbulb? It's spraying around watts of much higher frequency radiation than any consumer wireless device would.

        That's true, and look how sensitive the electrons in our eyes are to it. It's like saying that microwaves can't be seen (they're at a much lower frequency than our eyes detect), therefore they can't hurt us. Good luck with *that*.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          I didn't say they couldn't HURT us, I said it was very unlikely they'd cause cancer. It's trivial to demonstrate that radio waves can hurt you. Cram a screwdriver in the door sensor on your microwave, stand in front of it and turn it on.

          You don't worry about lightbulbs causing eye cancer, do you? If so, perhaps you should be careful about looking at your computer screen.

    • As I understand it, no it isn't going to cause cancer. This isn't radiation flying about the room, not even in the sense of EM radiation like microwaves. These systems use an alternating magnetic current that produces a sympithetic current in the device being charged. Rather than sending power in the EM spectrum and generating a current based on a photovoltaic effect.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      All studies point to "Not likely" which is doctor parlance for "No, but we don't want you to get cancer from some other source and then blame us"

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      Yes, when designing this standard, scientists and engineers are going to cherry-pick frequencies likely to give you cancer.

  • damage? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tylerdrumr (1233104)
    Im not an expert with this kind of thing by any means but isn't there a chance that it could cause damage to more advanced devices? anyone have any ideas how they get around that?
  • by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @07:18PM (#26166927)
    Can I put one of these on the floor of my garage and charge my car when I park at night?
  • Last I checked USB was pretty much the defacto standard power connector already, for low power devices. And you can make a nice looking USB charging dock for SUB a lot more cheaply than you can make these space-wasting power pads.

    • You can now buy USB charging dock with, for example, four USB outluts.
    • Yeah, but have you looked at any cell phones lately? There's a bazillion-and-one types of power connectors and chargers. iGo [igo.com] has even been making a business out of all the chaos and confusion.
  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @07:44PM (#26167251) Journal

    You can't develop a standard if you don't have similar technologies, and wireless power developers so far have been coming up with all kinds of different technologies. Remove the part of TFA that makes no sense in light of this, and you end up with an advertisement for this "consortium" disguised as a press release, faithfully and unquestioningly reproduced by PC Authority. Had PC Authority tried to do real journalism rather than simple reproduction, they'd have found that not only are the major proposed schemes so different that the idea of standardization is ridiculous, but that some of the members of the consortium aren't even developing any of those schemes.

    • Had they tried to do real journalism, they would have slanted the story to fit their political viewpoints. ;)
  • by David Gerard (12369) <slashdotNO@SPAMdavidgerard.co.uk> on Thursday December 18, 2008 @07:59PM (#26167409) Homepage

    Intel chief technology officer Justin Rattner demonstrated a Wireless Energy Resonant Link [today.com] as he spoke at the annual Intel developers forum in San Francisco yesterday.

    Rattner demonstrated this by causing his ears to light up at 60 watts of power a yard from a power transmitter operated by his assistant Igor. Only four journalists were incinerated when the power earthed through them from his fingertips.

    Rattner reassured us that pumping kilowatts of power around the home through magnetic induction power is absolutely harmless. "The human body is not affected by magnetic fields," he said as one journalist with a pacemaker collapsed and another with a knee replacement watched his leg catch fire. "There's no danger whatsoever from it, any more than there is from mobile phones cooking your brain, microwave leakage blinding you, chemical waste unraveling all the DNA in your balls or statistical clusters of kids with cancer wherever high-tension power lines run overhead. Asbestos and thalidomide were horribly slandered in their day too."

    "Of course, Nikola Tesla did it first in 1899," said enthusiast Albert Tedious-Anorak, 54, of Little Boring. "I detailed this at length on Wikipedia, but they refused to believe the value of my revelations on this matter due to a conspiracy of Edison fans amongst the site administrators."

  • wow a connection free power cradle !

    I wish my toothbrush did this
  • It's about the right time to do this. There have been about three competing schemes for smart inductive wireless charging, none of which got any traction. This needs to be standardized, preferably worldwide.

    If this works, every business hotel will have a convenient charging pad in every room. We might see charging pads built into cars.

  • The problem is "requires different chargers," so the obvious solution is to standardize the voltage requirements of electronic devices so that they don't need to use different chargers.

    Why are the silly chargers able to plug into the same outlet in the first place? Not because of any physical constant of the universe, but because the market decided that the advantages of standardization outweighed whatever subtle optimization there might have be in (say) running lights at 120 volts DC, vacuum cleaners at 85

  • While I am a true geek and nerd and whatever else (having 5x more networked devices than the average Joe), I am just SCARED of this idea.

    I have cell phones and wireless access points (which I keep FAR away from my pregnant wife and will keep away from the young man), I DEFINITELY deny using a microwave oven unless absolutely unavoidable (once a month?). No I do not have air purifiers and spray "kill 99% germs" shit all around the house, and better have my kids play with my dogs' shit other than operate a mi

    • by kwabbles (259554)

      I have cell phones and wireless access points (which I keep FAR away from my pregnant wife and will keep away from the young man), I DEFINITELY deny using a microwave oven unless absolutely unavoidable (once a month?). No I do not have air purifiers and spray "kill 99% germs" shit all around the house, and better have my kids play with my dogs' shit other than operate a microwave oven, I think that wireless power is something I definitely something I want to keep away from: young souls, pregnant women and m

    • by guruevi (827432) <evi@@@smokingcube...be> on Thursday December 18, 2008 @11:10PM (#26168763) Homepage

      I work in a 3 Tesla fMRI environment. You know, the thing with the superconductive, super cooled magnets that require a few kV to maintain and that eventually has enough power to align all water molecules in your body and then send another magnetic field through to take pictures of your physical structure. You know if your head needs to be scanned, we put it inside a head coil which is basically the secondary coil side of a transformer. I usually work on the computers right next to the power boxes (huge cabinets with transformers in them).

      So far, fMRI has produced no cancers in me, the fMRI specialist who worked in fMRI for the last 20 years and is next to the machine on a daily basis, the technicians that maintain it or any of the subjects (except for the ones already having cancer or in which they induced cancer to study). Also, fMRI has no reported effects on pregnancy although we won't allow it because of the electricity that can be induced in the body but the main reason would be the contrast fluids.

      I don't believe your mW sender/receiver has enough power to harm let alone kill anyone.

  • I expected it to be obvious for slashdotters, that a high energy beam, going from A to B, has to go trough material X.
    Now if material X happens to be something that reacts to masses of electrons or photons going trough it, it will change, and most likely heat that material, depending on its density.

    So if you're part of the material X, it is pretty sure that you will be fried. If your brain is, it will distort the electric charges even at much lower power levels.

    So who are those idiots that still praise it a

  • The wireless pad they are using still needs to be supplied with power. Presumable with one of those non-standard bricks, they are not putting 110/220V on your desk for safety reasons. So the total inefficiency should be 40-80% multiplied by the transformer efficiency.
    With todays technology it is perfectly possible to standardize on one plug, that has an extra 2 pins to communicate what power it needs. A transformer that uses that technology only sees a couple of dollars price increase. Everyone wants this
    • There are two actual motivations:
        - Being able to charge $40 for a hunk of plastic and metal bits worth 50 cents is a nice pool of free money
        - Not having to replace your customer's expensive devices after they fry them with a charger they bought at radio shack for 40 cents and don't admit it, is already worth more than negative $39.60

      • by Fjan11 (649654)
        I've actually been involved in a study for a large consumer electronics firm and the benefits of standardisation are substantially larger than the profit that would be lost from no longer being able to sell chargers and related equipment. Just imagine: if chargers were as standard as batteries you could leave them out of the box giving you a huge saving on shelf space and transportation costs. Did you know that there are laws in Europe requiring consumer electronic firms to have to be able to replace power

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