The Stack Archive

War over wireless technology standards threatens to stunt market growth

Fri 1 Aug 2014

Wireless charging has become more of a familiar concept recently with an increasing number of devices offering the new capability. However, the development of the technology has been stumped as the field fights over establishing a single set of standards for its products.

Either featured as a built-in capability or integrated inside third-party casing, wireless charging technology is set to witness a break through over the next few years. The wireless market as a whole is expected to boom globally from a $216m value last year to $8.5bn in 2018, according to market research firm, IHS Technology.

Despite this projected market growth, the technology is witnessing a slow adoption due to a dispute over standards. The Power Matters Alliance (PMA) which supports one type of wireless technology, counts Duracell, Procter & Gamble and Qualcomm among its members, whereas The Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) backs a standard called Qi, adopted by the likes of Hitachi, IKEA and Verizon. Other tech organisations, such as Samsung and Microsoft, are enlisted under both sets of standards.

The two groups employ the same wireless technology, however they align themselves with different specifications, which presents a challenge for companies wishing to incorporate the feature in their devices.

VP of market development at WPC, John Perzow revealed that “63 phones on the market today support the Qi standard, including those from Nokia, Google, and Sony.”

“Meanwhile, Google Nexus and LG phones, among others, will have PMA compatibility built into them,” he added.

The war continues further as the two bodies fight over the development of magnetic resonance technology, which is expected to be the second stage standard for wireless charging. This technology is based on resonant magnetic coupling and does not require direct contact to charge a device, but can reach across small distances (currently around 2 inches). The industry groups hope that, due to its ability to transfer larger quantities of energy, magnetic resonance will be able to facilitate the wireless integration of household appliances.

Other advancements include WiTricity’s resonant wireless power transfer, which works by creating certain frequencies between a receiver and a device. Experts predict that this area of wireless technology will take a huge leap in areas such as health care and the arms industry. “Wires in hospitals are a big issue because you have to sterilize every device,” said Kaynam Hedayat, VP of product management and marketing at WiTricity.

“Wireless charging tech could also help soldiers cut down on the nearly 40 pounds of battery that many soldiers carry on their backs. And charging sensors on submarines would enable battery charging in deep-sea conditions, where it’s unsafe to run wires,” he continued.

However, all of this progression in the wireless field is currently regarded by some as simply “a novelty at best”, until the standards dispute is levelled and a winner is crowned.

“In four or five years, there will be one standard for wirelessly charging devices,” suggested Hedayat. “You will forget about different adapters and connecters. You will find a hotspot and it’s just going to work.”


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