It is said the limiting factor in today’s day and age is battery technology. Technology has come up with slimmer, more portable ways of doing things. However, batteries haven’t managed to get as powerful and efficient as we’d love them to.
The solution to this has been battery banks, and a quick charge. But then comes in the inconvenience of frequently plugging and unplugging your device from a wall charger. Even if you use a battery bank, you still need to plug or unplug, and that’s simply inconvenient when you receive a phone call. That’s where wireless charging emerged in popularity.
The PowerSquare Tango lets you charge multiple devices placed in any direction. Image: PowerSquare
PowerSquare is a wireless charging company that aims to solve that problem. We spoke to Pavan Pudipeddi, a wireless power industry veteran who helped build PowerSquare to shed some light on what’s latest in wireless charging.
Primarily, there are two main standards for wireless power. Pudipeddi mentions that two alliances, namely wireless power consortium (WPC) and air fuel alliance. The WPC, which has been around since 2008, is the most widely adopted and mature standard today. The Airfuel Alliance was recently formed from the merger of two separate standards called the power matters alliance (PMA) and the alliance for wireless power (A4WP).
Over the years, WPC and Airfuel alliance began work on inductive and resonant versions of wireless power transfer. While WPC has these two specifications being developed within its working groups, PMA and A4WP merger provides Airfuel Alliance with both inductive and resonant specifications respectively from PMA and A4WP.
Being the more evolved standard, WPC seems to have received rather widespread adoption from device manufacturers. A wireless power standard – Qi – introduced by WPC in 2008 uses magnetic induction in a transformer circuitry, where the transmitter and receiver coils engage at a close proximity enabling power transfer.
According to Pudipeddi, the Qi standard defines a communication protocol where the amount of power transferred is optimal. The WPC currently has a specification of 5W and recently extended it to cover 15W thereby bringing fast charging via the wireless power link.
Over 220 companies such as Verizon Wireless, Samsung and LG are members of the WPC. Talking about the more exciting developments, Pudipeddi adds that WPC is currently working on next generation resonant specifications that will bring in improved functionality and user experience like the ability to charge from under the table and power multiple devices simultaneously.
Pudipeddi’s company PowerSquare designed the Tango, which is the first device on the market that addresses pressing concerns of the industry involving innovation and the experience with charging devices. The Tango has a large surface that the phone can be charged on without worrying about placing it in a specific way, or orienting its position or direction with the charger. In fact, the Tango can charge two phones simultaneously. Pudipeddi believes that makes it the most user friendly implementation of a wireless power system to date.
Although products and features such as wireless charging are still relatively niche, there is an increase in the curiosity around wireless charging, with companies such as Samsung actively promoting it. However, most users expect wireless charging to be as efficient as wired chargers. With current technologies, wireless chargers are approximately 25 to 35 percent less efficient than wired chargers.
Talking about how he finds battery banks inconvenient, he adds that he personally owns three battery banks himself, but whenever he needs them the most, he finds that they’re not charged. He believes wireless charging stations and convenience with charging stations now getting accessible.
Considering that USB-Type C connectors are now finding themselves across devices, it makes one wonder – what could the future hold? An absolute switch to wireless charging or newer standards such as USB-Type C or Lightning? And Pudipeddi is quick to counter. He adds, “nobody likes plugging in their devices. Many companies are working round the clock to ensure that this last chord is cut. However, wires are not going away any time soon. For a foreseeable future we expect both wired and wireless power chargers to coexist for consumer applications like phones, tablets etc. However, what we see today is just a tip of the iceberg in terms of wireless powers’ capabilities.” We’re waiting to find out the possibilities with a wirefree world.