Industry standards come together to simplify and speed the proliferation of wireless charging, leading airports, hotels and other locations to trial battery refueling technology.
Soon, leaving home without all those different power cords for your phones, tablets and notebooks could become a problem of the past.
Similar to how the Wi-Fi revolution in 2003 let people connect their mobile computers to the Internet without wires, new wireless charging technologies aim to free people from having to rely on their power cords at all.
At the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show this week, two wireless charging technology standards groups merged, making it simpler and potentially quicker for this technology to be widely adopted.
The Alliance for Wireless Power, which supports a technology called Rezence or magnetic resonance, and Power Matters Alliance joined forces to help build momentum for wireless charging, something research firm IHS expects will generate $8.5 billion in revenue by 2018. That’s up from $216 million in 2013.
Wireless Power or Magnetic Resonance is where electricity transfers safely between two objects through metal coils. Magnetic Resonance technology provides positional flexibility, charges through most tabletops, and can simultaneously charge multiple devices of various sizes and power levels.
More certified products will become commercially available in 2015, according to IHS. The research firm expects number of wireless charging receivers based on so-called loosely coupled technology, such as magnetic resonance, will overtake those which use other wireless charging technologies in 2017 when the total market is expected to grow to be worth over $7.5 billion.
IHS sees wireless charging as a big thing in future wearable devices. The research firm believes total market revenues will rise from $14.5 million in 2014 to over $1.1 billion in 2019, when over 200 million units are expected to be shipped.
In his keynote kicking off CES, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich highlighted new wireless charging collaborations including Hilton, Jaguar Land Rover, San Francisco International Airport and Marriott.
He said these collaborators are developing and deploying wireless-charging pilots at Marriott, which plans to install wireless charging capabilities across the Marriott portfolio of brands, including JW Marriott, Marriott, Renaissance, Courtyard and Residence Inn.
He demonstrated how a personal computer, in this case a 2 in 1 laptop-to-tablet device, can be placed on table and start charging.
“Imagine a world where you can charge your devices wherever you are,” says Krzanich. “That’s the world I want to live in.”
Wireless charging stations could soon become common in airports, cafes, hotels and other public places. The technology can be easily fitted under existing tables or counter tops, which essentially makes them wireless charging pads.
Place a laptop, 2 in 1 device, tablet or smartphone on the table or counter and the device begins recharging wirelessly. The first laptops with wireless charging will come out later this year.
The technology will also show up in tablets with Intel chips later this year, said Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s PC Client Group, in an interview with ComputerWorld just ahead of CES.
Skaugen said that wireless charging technology could appear in all kinds of places, including entertainment spots, but it will take a few years for it to really proliferate.
“We want to strip away the complexity and friction of computing forever and enable an entirely new way of interacting with technology,” said Sanjay Vora, vice president and general manager of User Experiences at Intel.
He said that people carry multiple cables, chargers, backup chargers and adapters for their mobile devices that can be more than double the weight of their devices. If the average is five personal computing devices and three or more devices at work for the typical person in the United States, that’s a lot of cables that could be left at home.
“We have talked to thousands of computer users across many countries,” said Vora. “We wanted to know what is it about computing devices that people like and don’t like. We got a lot of insights.”
More than 40 anthropologists, ethnographers and design researchers visited 45 countries to conduct thousands of interviews. The aim was to identify current pain points or frustrations people have when using their personal computing devices, ranging from desktops and laptops to tablets and smartphones.
Four of top 10 pain points were tied to wires.
“They told us that they have to carry so many different wires, cords and plugs when traveling or going from place to place because every device has its own cord, plus USB and even display cables,” said Vora. “They don’t want to carry these around, and many want these wires out of their sight.”
Of those surveyed, 76 percent said they were frustrated by lack of interoperability, or requiring a specific wire for each device, and 68 percent dislike seeing wires clutter their space.
“We saw people get excited when there’s something new and unique that makes your life easier or changes the way you do things,” said Vora. “Presenting people with wireless charging elicited emotional responses, like the sense of freedom.”
Vora remembers how Intel Centrino Mobile Technology and the hotspot revolution that hit the market in 2003 eliminated at least one wire.
“The impact of just removing the LAN cable and having WiFi everywhere has really freed us to access the internet anywhere without needing a LAN cable.”
Martin Garner, analyst at CSS Insight, said that wireless charging has been hampered by different standards, so now that there are fewer competing standards it could make the technology more common.
“My understanding from the smartphone area is that people loved the wireless charging pads,” he said. “The technology was successful then because people bought two – one at home and work. If you can extend wireless charging to coffee shops and other publish places it could be a really good thing.”
Garner’s colleague Ben Wood, chief analyst at CSS Insight agreed.
“It makes more sense for everyone to come together,” he said. “It’s a fantastic technology. I’m starting to try a small array of charging plates, and they’re very useful. I can image the technology being built into coffee shops, desks, furniture, and even cup holders in vehicles.”
Editor’s Note: For more on this and other stories from the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show, watch the replay of Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s keynote address.