Freeing the World from Wires: What’s Next for Wireless Power?

What are companies’ most pressing questions about wireless power these days, and what’s in store for the near and far future of wireless power?

The Airfuel Alliance, a “global coalition of innovative companies who share a commitment to freeing the world from cords” held a panel in early January 2020 to answer just that. The panel included researchers, professors, and executives in the wireless power space.

Five primary questions were raised:

  1. What should we expect next from wireless power?
  2. Is wireless power efficient?
  3. How fast (or slow) is wireless power?
  4. Is wireless power safe?
  5. Are there interference issues we should be aware of with wireless power?

Ossia leadership was in attendance, and, in case you missed the conference, here are our key takeaways.

1. What should we expect next from wireless power?

From our panelists’ perspective, it’s important to understand that what we think of as wireless power today, which is Qi or induction charging, is in its infancy. It’s a “first generation” or “first wave” solution that requires direct contact with a charging pad. It’s slow, and there are positioning issues with the charging pad or connection. What’s more, there are many standards, which make it difficult to share parts or chargers.

The second generation uses the same technology, but addresses the difficulties with the physical connection, such as Apple’s Magsafe. A better connection means a faster charge.

The third generation will eliminate the need for contact at all. It will deliver wireless power over air, through radio frequencies (RF).

There will be an evolution and a co-existence among all three types of technologies.

We should expect to see batteryless sensors for IoT, more low power and near field applications, and more high frequency systems. We’ll see major growth for wireless power in the areas of medical devices, industrial, and mobile.

Also, academia appears to be catching up with wireless power engineering programs.

Ossia’s perspective: This third generation of wireless power already exists, with Ossia’s Cota wireless power technology. It leverages RF power, and can be used in tandem with Qi and magnetic connectors. Ossia is developing a global standard for RF-based wireless power to enable a more seamless evolution.

2. Is Wireless Power Efficient?

Everyone agreed that wireless power is efficient, when you are measuring or comparing the right things. For example, does efficiency refer to cost, speed, or convenience? Eventually, this question will be moot; for example, no one talks about the efficiency of WiFi anymore.

Ossia’s perspective: “Efficiency is the ability to achieve a desired result while avoiding waste: wasted time, resources, inconvenience, effort, energy, or money,” says Hatem Zeine, a physicist and inventor of RF-based wireless power and Ossia’s CTO. “When considering cost efficiency of any power source, it’s important to look at all relevant perspectives to assess the total cost of ownership. That provides meaningful and relevant metric of true efficiency.”

Although the panel didn’t go into efficiency in too much detail, Ossia’s blog, Unwired, has some detailed information on how to assess it for your business:

Article: The True Efficiency of Wireless Power

Video: The True Efficiency of Wireless Power

3. How fast is wireless power?

This was a somewhat controversial question. On the one hand, the panelists agreed that technology is advancing rapidly, which allows wireless power to be transferred at high rates. Devices are also becoming “smarter” and more efficient at receiving wireless power, which would impact the speed of power transfer.

However, at the same time, as the speed of wireless technology increases, so does the features set, which may slow everything down.

Ossia’s perspective: Speed is irrelevant, when the device is always charged. That said, it’ll be some time before real wireless power is everywhere, so there may be some period of time when a device is low on power. So how fast can wireless power go? It depends on a few factors, such as where you are and what kind of charging you are comparing to. You must take all these things into consideration:

What kind of charger: wall charger, a Qi charger, and wireless power transfer over air?

What kind of device: a smartphone? Which brand?

And where you are charging: At a conference, in an airplane, or at home?

Read this article for more perspective on RF-based wireless charging speeds.

4. Is Wireless Power Safe?

With wireless power, a safety evolution is taking place: both with consumers’ perception of safety and the safety of the technology itself. When WiFi was first introduced, people were very concerned about safety, and now that is hardly a concern at all. The same with cordless mobile phones.

To determine whether the technology is safe, you need to check the type of technology and its safety protocols. An evolution is taking place in the improvement of the technology, regulatory approvals of applications, and people’s acceptance of what feels safe.

Ossia’s perspective: Ossia’s Cota RF-based power technology is inherently safe, because it naturally avoids people and pets in a room. Cota has passed the FCC’s strict protocols and has been approved for commercial use, even in close proximity to people.

4. Are there interference issues we should be aware of with wireless power?

Different radio frequencies can coexist, with some planning. A frequency band dedicated to wireless power will help eliminate any issues of RF interference. There may be some trade offs; for example, if the frequency is crowded, power delivery might be slower. Everyone on the panel seemed to agree that there will be global standards for different applications and use cases to address this.

Ossia’s perspective: Cota works much like Wi-Fi operating on radio frequency, but because it uses radio frequencies for power delivery, not communications, it can coexist extremely well with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or other over-air technologies.

How Will Wireless Power Affect Your Business?

As a whole, the panelists agree that the evolution of wireless power is more evolutionary than revolutionary. What this means to us is that planning for it may slip by many businesses, which will lose out on an innovation advantage.

We don’t want that to happen. It may feel like a slow process to connect all the pieces that must be connected to make wireless power ubiquitous on a global scale, but Ossia is committed to helping make it happen.

Want to be part of the wireless power ecosystem? Contact us.