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The Future of Wireless Power

Plug In Your Desk, Not Your Devices

The next step after charging mats is building the charging technology right into your desk so you can plug in the desk once and charge multiple devices just by putting them down. You could run power to the end table next to the couch for your lamps, remote controls and tablet computers. Or companies could put charging points into tables at airports and coffee shops. The idea is to make it so common that you don’t think about plugging into the wall anymore; you put a digital photo frame down on your desk or an iPod alarm dock on the bedside table, and they just get power.

Different Qi charging points that can fit into a desk.

Different Qi charging points that can fit into a desk.

Fulton has been working with commercial furniture maker Leggett & Platt, who is building Qi charging points into conference tables and work desks, and the charging points will also be available for hobbyists and small furniture makers to use. Powermat is also looking at putting charging points in lamps as well as desks.

Powermat’s smart idea: putting a wireless charging point in something that already has power – like a lamp – is a shortcut to getting integrated wireless power.

Powermat’s smart idea: putting a wireless charging point in something that already has power – like a lamp – is a shortcut to getting integrated wireless power.

Qualcomm’s WiPower will have a big advantage here, however; the technology can transmit power up to two inches through the surface of the desk. Simply put, sticking a WiPower antenna underneath the desk is far easier than cutting a hole for and mounting a Qi charging spot. You don’t need to put what you’re charging down as precisely with WiPower either, so the remote control doesn’t have to sit neatly in the same spot and your laptop will still charge if you pull it a little closer to type comfortably.

The disadvantage of Qi is that you have to place devices quite precisely.

The disadvantage of Qi is that you have to place devices quite precisely.

The eCoupled Qi system has always sent data back about what devices are charging and how much power is being drawn. This is done so that the charger can stop sending power when the device is fully charged, since you get much longer battery life if you manage charging efficiently rather than topping the battery off too often. WiPower does the same and Powermat is adding a data connection to its charging system. You could use that to trigger more than charging a device. Canon has already announced a wireless power system for video and still cameras that syncs your video and photos to your TV when you put the camera down to charge (although it’s not transferring the data through the wireless power connection, just triggering Wi-Fi). Similarly you could have one seat at a conference table set up to control the projector; as each speaker takes that seat and puts their laptop or phone on that charging point, it could automatically mirror their screen onto the projector.