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Wireless Power Group Sees Standard Within 6 Months 152

Posted by Soulskill
from the spooky-power-at-a-distance dept.
alphadogg writes "The group developing a standard for wireless charging expects to complete its first specification within six months, opening the door for makers of cell phones, digital cameras and other devices to bring compatible products to market. Wireless charging lets consumers place gadgets on a mat that plugs into a wall outlet, and have the devices recharge automatically without needing to plug in each one. Apart from the gee-whiz factor, it's supposed to make life more convenient by letting people walk into their home or office, toss their gadgets onto a mat to recharge and forget about them."
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Wireless Power Group Sees Standard Within 6 Months

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  • Saving power (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @05:24PM (#30709774) Homepage Journal

    Charging mats will recognize when a device is fully charged and then consume a trickle of energy in standby mode

    Okay thats interesting. We all use wireless (inductive) power in other places and while, yeah, the cheap plugpack segment is mostly switchmode now I wonder if there are places where the efficency of transformers could be improved with a digital back channel which says send me this much power.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Gordonjcp (186804)

      while, yeah, the cheap plugpack segment is mostly switchmode now I wonder if there are places where the efficency of transformers could be improved

      How about they improve the power supplies first? It's bad enough that there are all these cheap crappy switch-mode power supplies splattering harmonics of their switching frequency up and down the RF spectrum, but now they want to design them to radiate *more*?

    • by rdnetto (955205)

      Charging mats will recognize when a device is fully charged and then consume a trickle of energy in standby mode

      Okay thats interesting. We all use wireless (inductive) power in other places and while, yeah, the cheap plugpack segment is mostly switchmode now I wonder if there are places where the efficency of transformers could be improved with a digital back channel which says send me this much power.

      Isn't that how transformers work - the power consumed is directly proportional to the power provided? It seems to me that a wireless system would be like a transformer, except with an air gap instead of a soft iron core.

  • toss their gadgets onto a mat to recharge and forget about them

    Great, another place where my phone can be stolen.

    • Its just where you normally charge the phone, except you don't have to plug it in.

    • by Hadlock (143607)

      Number of times phone stolen from bedside table: 0
      Number of times phone stolen from office desk: 0

      • by PIBM (588930)

        And what's the number of times your phone has been stolen at all ?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Hadlock (143607)

          Times cell phone has been stolen at all: 0
           
          Seriously, it lives in your pocket, or on your belt. How many times have you had your wallet stolen? Maybe you have an issue with keeping track of your personal belongings. I've never heard of any of my friends (mostly BB and iPhone users, fairly desirable phones, unlockable and use SIM cards) with stolen phones. Usually it's death by toilet, sidewalk or frustration (wall).

          • So just because it's never happened to you or someone you know then it either doesn't happen at all or it's the victim's fault? I've never had any home I live in broken into, either. Does that mean burglars only prey on people who don't lock up their homes? This discussion shouldn't even have gotten this far off topic.

            And yes, I do think that if public charging stations become popular (it really doesn't seem that far fetched to me) then phones will be a bit more susceptible to theft.
    • Great, another place where my phone can be stolen.
      I don't see how putting it on a charge mat on your desk is any worse from a theft point of view than putting it on your desk and plugging in a charge cable.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @05:28PM (#30709804)
    We've tried doing this with physical plugs to no avail, even if one half conforms to a standard there will always be a few very popular device manufacturers -cough- Apple -cough- who will break the trend and inconvenience a large amount of users.
    • -cough- USB -cough-

      • by maxume (22995)

        Apple uses cables that happen to have a USB plug on one side.

    • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @05:51PM (#30709930) Homepage
      There's USB and in the EU manufacturers have agreed to a universal charger: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2009/jun/30/universal-mobile-phone-charger [guardian.co.uk]
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by noidentity (188756)
      No problem! We'll just have an adaptor/receiver that you plug into your old adaptor. This will receive wireless power, convert it back to 120/240V AC, then power your old wired adaptor.
      • by podwich (766178)
        So let me get this straight. We'll plug the adapter for the wireless power mat into the wall, then convert to wireless power, then convert back into wired power, then plug the old adapter into the wireless to wired power adapter, then plug the (phone, computer, whatever) into the mess? Hmm. That's Rube Goldbergish.
        • As opposed to plugging a power adaptor into the wall, which powers an inductive mat that emits an alternating electromagnetic field, some of which is picked up by a phone's matching coil a couple of feet away, which converts it back to power, which is then converted into a voltage to charge the battery of the phone. As opposed to plugging a power adaptor into the wall, plugging it into the phone, and charging the battery.
      • by rdnetto (955205)

        No problem! We'll just have an adaptor/receiver that you plug into your old adaptor. This will receive wireless power, convert it back to 120/240V AC, then power your old wired adaptor.

        You can't plug something into a wireless power source, it's wireless.

  • Strange limitation (Score:4, Informative)

    by cerberusss (660701) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @05:37PM (#30709860) Homepage Journal

    The article mentions "The standard is for delivering up to 5 watts of power, which covers most smaller devices. "

    This sounds like a pretty low limit to me. My iPhone charger delivers 5 watts and it takes hours before it's charged. Now imagine you buy one of those matts and your family or colleagues throw their phones on the matt as well. At the end of the day, they might not even be charged!

    • If you just keep the phone on the mat it will rarely take hours to charge.

      • How so? Is 5 watts through the mat somehow more than 5 watts through a cable?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That sounds awfully inconvenient if you're trying to take a call. Perhaps instead of having one large mat that all the phones have to lie on top of, you could split it up into smaller inductors, put a layer of velco on each, and wire them to extend up to 3 feet from the central hub. Your cell, of course, would have a corresponding velcro patch, and if you needed to make a call, you just pick it up and call, without having to worry about running out of power on a quarter-charge.

        I think we could call it a "te

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by KazW (1136177)

      The article mentions "The standard is for delivering up to 5 watts of power, which covers most smaller devices. "

      This sounds like a pretty low limit to me. My iPhone charger delivers 5 watts and it takes hours before it's charged. Now imagine you buy one of those matts and your family or colleagues throw their phones on the matt as well. At the end of the day, they might not even be charged!

      I'm not sure how you missed this sentence, but this makes it pretty clear to me.

      Initial products are likely to come bundled with a small charging mat of their own, but if the technology takes off other companies are likely to sell mats that can charge multiple devices at once.

    • The trouble is that these devices use exactly the same principles as radio transmitters do - if you increase the power then you start screwing up radio broadcasts at whatever frequency it is you are using to transmit the power - not good.

    • by fluffy99 (870997)

      My iPhone charger delivers 5 watts and it takes hours before it's charged.

      While the charger may be rated at 5 watts output, the phone battery isn't charging at a full 5 watts if its taking hours. The battery in the iPhone is rated at 5.7 watt-hours (3.7 volts, 1500 mAH). Even if we estimate the charging process at only 75% efficient, that should charge it from zero to full in 1.5 hours. Here is a picture of a replacement Apple 3G battery showing the specs. http://cdn.overstock.com/images/products/28/688/L12455938.jpg [overstock.com]

      Still, I agree that 5-watts is a little low for some devices.

    • I know this is a late response, but I didn't see it in the children comments:

      USB is capable of delivering 5V at 1A, or 5W of power, per port in its maximum configuration. This is likely where the spec came from, since most manufacturers are moving towards the mini-usb as a power source. By providing the current standard limit, most device designs will already conform downstream of the induction coil. They've simply designed to the marketplace.

      What they didn't necessarily consider is that it would be great i

  • Pointless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Samy Merchi (1297447) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @05:45PM (#30709894) Homepage

    I don't really see the point. As long as you have to put the device in a specific location anyway, I don't see that it's much of an improvement over having to connect it with your charger. You have to connect it with a location just the same, with this new tech, just the plug is different (a pad vs a plug).

    Wake me when you have a tech that charges my mobile from the moment I step in my home door and leave my mobile in my jacket pocket hanging in the foyer.

    Until that use case can be satisfied, I think this is just the same-old, same-old.

    • My wife and I tend to drop our phones in standard places in the house, then plug them in at night. This way the phones will charge when they are put down.

    • Have you seriously gotten so lazy that you can't even SET SOMETHING DOWN?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Samy Merchi (1297447)

        It's not about laziness. If it was about laziness, I'd jump on the new tech because it saves me the "arduous" step of *plugging in* (gasp). Instead I'm planning on staying with the far more demanding step of actually plugging in.

        It's about forgetfulness. As I grow older and more senile, I plain and simple don't *remember* to put my devices at their designated charging locations every single night. If there was a tech that charged my devices no matter where I left them inside the confines of my house, that w

        • Encouraging you to put your phone in the same place every night is a feature, especially for you if you are forgetful. If you could leave your phone anywhere in your house to charge, what are the odds of you remembering where you put it?

        • or you could get a butler
      • There's an app for that.
    • Re:Pointless (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @06:04PM (#30709994)

      as someone who builds (diy) and also fixes commercial gear, let me splain one thing to you.

      the jacks are pure shit and they fail in very short times if they see any use at all. most plugs have minimal strain relief and there is NONE at the socket side of things.

      if you go socketless, you have one less thing on the (mp3, phone, etc) to break on its main board.

      of course, you still have the line-out (etc) to worry about breaking, but repeated chargings on cheap connectors (they ALl are cheap chinese connectors) isn't ever a good thing. removing them is a good thing.

      • It's been a long time since the last time I've had a broken jack on an electronic device. It's fine if other people want this wireless standard. However, if it means slower data transfer, likely slower charging, adding a bit of weight and thickness, at a higher cost, only to make it slightly more reliable, I'll be a late adopter on this particular idea.

    • by Ragzouken (943900)

      The plug is absent, saving you the 'plug in' step that comes before the 'place on surface' step.

    • If something like that will happen, I can imagine neighborhood teenagers suspiciously lounging about near your place. Because their newest cell phones will be recharged for free :)
      Of course you can lock down "over the air" emissions by shielding that room... but it means your cell, while charging, won't be able to receive/place calls. Which would require a femtocell inside that charging room, which makes it all even more expensive.

      So... please pull your gadgets out of the pocket and put them on the mat for

      • It only works with direct contact, like 1mm away. No further than that.

        • They were talking about the GP's "leave it to charge anywhere in the house." In that case, you *would* have the potential for people to leech power from outside.

    • If it prevents you from putting certain other things in that spot, it may very well be even worse than a charger plug.

    • by KazW (1136177)

      I don't really see the point. As long as you have to put the device in a specific location anyway, I don't see that it's much of an improvement over having to connect it with your charger. You have to connect it with a location just the same, with this new tech, just the plug is different (a pad vs a plug).

      Wake me when you have a tech that charges my mobile from the moment I step in my home door and leave my mobile in my jacket pocket hanging in the foyer.

      Until that use case can be satisfied, I think this is just the same-old, same-old.

      A couple things...

      1. 1) Why would you leave your phone in your jacket pocket anyways? The ringer would be muffled and you'd probably miss calls.
      2. 2) There have been many times I set my phone down by the charger and either forgot to plug it in or I didn't have the plug in all the way, this would eliminate those issues.
      3. 3) This would allow me to charge multiple devices with the same mat, or just have multiple chargers in different locations in my house... I could just get multiple USB port chargers, but then I ha
    • by HTH NE1 (675604)

      I don't really see the point.

      Instead of twelve wires leading to twelve plugs going to a powerstrip or two before reaching the wall for a dozen devices, you have one wire going to the wall and the devices on a flat surface which may if you like be cluttered with other non-charging devices. Or you build it into your countertop or other piece of furniture so you don't even see that wire.

      No, the real problem is that these devices needing charging are mobile, and continue to be mobile when used in the home. People want to keep their iPods w

      • by antic (29198)

        Beyond phones and cameras, a good use will be for kitchen appliances like toasters, kettles, sandwich makers, blenders, etc that are powered by the benchtops. For phones and cameras, it'd just be hype - most people would charge their phone over night once every few days, surely?

    • by MikeFM (12491)
      You must not go through the plug/unplug ritual much. It's a pain, cords tend to get lost, you don't have enough cords for every location, and the connectors wear out. Sure they are working on standards for wireless power that don't require a specific location but why not take advantage of what works for now? I for one am eagerly awaiting support from all the handheld devices I use frequently. I'd love to have a desk where the entire surface can charge devices and a laptop that can charge that way. I've con
    • by DavidD_CA (750156)

      This is better than having a million different plugs/adaptors/dongles.

      I'd love to see a car outfitted with a special version of this, too.

      Hotel rooms can have one, on the night stand, as a nice feature for their guests.

      Any office desk could definitely benefit from one. Less wiring clutter. Only downside is no USB sync (yet).

      There are plenty of uses. They're all moot unless there is an industry-wide standard, though.

    • by Pedrito (94783)
      I don't really see the point. As long as you have to put the device in a specific location anyway, I don't see that it's much of an improvement over having to connect it with your charger. You have to connect it with a location just the same, with this new tech, just the plug is different (a pad vs a plug).

      My wife and I have several devices (phones, MP3 players, etc) that we charge in one location and the rats nest of wires and connectors is a nightmare. Personally, I find the idea of dropping my device
    • This is how it should be:

      Two batteries, one in use, one always either charging or charged.
      Batteries are easily swapped.
      The devices have a small built-in battery or capacitor allowing for 30 seconds of idle operation without battery so reboot isn't necessary during battery swap.
      The charger has many pins to accomodate a wide variety of batteries, and can auto-sense battery type and pin polarity (unless the battery has abslutely no charge, rare).

      Battery chargers are easier and cheaper than robust mini power

    • B b b b ut plugging it in is too hard!

    • It will be much easier to make a device more rugged (also mobile phones looking otherwise quite stylish; check Nokia 3720 classic) if it doesn't need to have any plugs.

      This for power, Bluetooth/etc. for connectivity.

    • by LoRdTAW (99712)

      To me a big plus is the pad could be integrated into furniture to produce an invisible charger. If a desk sized charger mat could be retrofitted or simply stuck to the underside of an existing desk it would be convenient. You just lay the device on the desk and go about your business. It also cuts the need for having multiple chargers. My night stand has a charger for my phone and Ipod and they sometimes find their way to the floor behind the table. A single wire connected to a pad or mat that doesn't fall

    • I mean, seriously, how hard is it to come up with a standard for this?

      I'll take a stab:

      5 Ghz, keep power below the FCC limit for uncontrolled emission at at (1 meter or less).

      Was that so hard, really?

  • walk into their home or office, toss their gadgets onto a mat to recharge...

    And how do I charge it when I'm somewhere else?
    Oh. Use a plug-in charger? Um... So, what's the point here?

    How about standardizing on a USB charging interface?

  • Sure to be a hit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by finity (535067) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @05:56PM (#30709954) Homepage Journal
    With all the /. users saying "this is going to be pointless," and "it's already easy enough as it is," this is sure to be a hit.
  • Besides seeming to be not much of big deal convenience-wise, is this a "green" technology or is it a power leach drawing power even when it's not being used. What is the ratio of input power to power actually charging a device?

    Back in the late 50s, I ran a several turn loop around my bedroom and created a "Halo coil" with many turns on a set of monaural headphones so I could have cordless headphones for listening to my shortwave radio. It worked, but wasn't particularly efficient.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by drawfour (791912)
      From page 2 of the article:

      There is some loss in the system, however, and the technology being standardized is only about 70 percent efficient, Treffers said, meaning it is not a particularly green way to charge devices.

  • by malkavian (9512) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @06:22PM (#30710098) Homepage

    This will be a huge boon to me.. One of my hobbies is underwater photography, and as anyone who does that will testify, you always have a nervous moment when you immerse the camera and housing at the start of a dive..
    This is because you have to seal the camera in a housing, sealed by a multitude of o-rings, each of which need to be cleaned and re-greased every time you open the housing. When you put the o-rings back in place, you have to look carefully for a hair, or a speck of grit or dirt, or anything that could compromise the seal in any way. If you mess up (even a single hair can cause a seal failure), you'll have a lovely view of rising water in your camera housing, and you camera will be so much junk (and you may kill the electronics in the housing too, which is expensive as well!)..
    This can really put a crimp in a holiday (no more photography for you! And you did have it insured, didn't you??)..
    There are really only two common reasons to crack a housing open.. To take the memory card out and back it up, and to recharge the camera/strobe batteries after a dive..
    As you need to recharge after most dives, nobody's really bothered much with wireless data transmission, but if you can wirelessly recharge, it's simple to add wireless data transfer too, so you'll not have to crack the case 'till you want to change the lens (which isn't too common most of the time) or strip it for cleaning (you could probably get away with once or twice a holiday, if that).. Much safer!

    • by raygundan (16760)

      And for us slightly less serious underwater photographers, I can imagine a nice little point-and-shoot cast in a solid block of polycarbonate. No gaskets at all-- no leaks until crush depth and catastrophic failure.

  • curious... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by thestudio_bob (894258)
    How efficient are these matts? Last I heard they were only 50% efficient. Does that mean that if I leave this thing plugged in all the time, it's "waisting" energy?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      The article implies a data channel from the device to the charger so the charger knows when not to deliver power.

  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @07:09PM (#30710396)

    If the public is already afraid of living near power lines (100yds away), what makes these manufacturers think that having a bunch of 'wireless power pads' is going to be any different? Or is this a case of a rabid chihuahua is no threat due to its size?

    • by dbIII (701233)
      Extreme situations like pregnant women operating poorly shielded electromagnetic PVC welders and Brazilian monkeys keeping warm by induction very close to power lines established that there is a potential problem. Unfortunately people make wild assumptions either way and assume that if they can see the power lines the EM field can get to them. I work on a block that has a 33kV line passing over, tests were made and only the top floor of the corner of the building closest to the lines had anything above wh
  • ... but every time they call each other, the calls go straight to voice mail, as if the phones are never turned on. weird.

  • energy loss (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fuzzums (250400) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @10:45PM (#30712004) Homepage

    the fact that this process inevitably will cost more energy than plugging the device is seems unimportant...

  • by upuv (1201447) on Sunday January 10, 2010 @03:46AM (#30713244) Journal

    OK does any one else see this as completely nuts?

    At the moment the power output is relatively low. 5 watts ish. Lets think about this. This is BROADCAST POWER. It's going to leak into everything around it. There will be no such thing as 95% efficient transfer of power. So where does this residual power go. Well into everything around it. The closer something is the more it will receive.

    Very simple chemistry here. Entropy increase with energy. Entropy can simple be defined as the desire of a substance to reach it most random and natural state. ( There is probably a more accurate definition than that. ) AKA Entropy is all about things BREAKING DOWN. So if we add energy to a "thing" it ultimately will break down faster.

    I'm sorry but I don't want to be walking around in yet more energy radiation fields. Especially one designed to transmit POWER AKA ENERGY.

    5 watts gives way to 10 watts gives away to 25 watts gives away to stupid amounts of power. As "improvements" and legislation allow higher and higher output.

    This also strikes me as the most un-green tech out there. Simply a device that radiates POWER.

    • by cheros (223479)

      Minor detail, AFAIK it's physics. In the main, however, you do voice my own doubts as well.

      I have yet to come across ANY wireless transmission method that didn't incorporate a degree of loss.

      I would have been FAR more interested in getting at last a Really Universal Power Supply (let's call it a RUPS) that could feed everything I jacked into it. My problem isn't plugging in, my problem is the vast plethora of chargers required to keep all this stuff going, which has partially driven my preference for anyt

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