Qi is an open, fully-fexible standard capable of evolving its technology and features. It is backed by several leading industry players including Nokia, HTC, Samsung, Energizer, Panasonic and Sony. The Nokia Lumia 920 and Samsung Galaxy S4 are amongst the popular mobile phone models using Qi wireless charging technology. Nokia, Samsung, Energizer and others provide Qi-compatible charging pads to charge Qi-compatible devices. JBL PowerUp is one such interesting product, which doubles up as a speaker-cum-wireless mobile phone charger. “JBL PowerUp is a speaker that has a wireless charging pad built-in. You can simply rest the phone on the JBL PowerUp rubber roundel and the phone starts charging,” says Lakkundi. “The wireless charging standard, known as the Qi charging/inductive power standard, works on magnetic induction between two coils. There is a base station (JBL PowerUp) to provide inductive power and the mobile device that consumes power. The current technology helps to transfer/charge low-power devices up to 5W.”
Speaking in detail about the power ranges covered by Qi, Abhishek Kumar, business development manager, Power Management Products, Texas Instruments (India), explains, “The focus for the lower power range is up to 5W and for the medium power range is up to 15W. Some examples of low-power products are applications using a single-cell battery, mobile phones, digital cameras, toys, Bluetooth headsets, audio headsets, alarm clocks, etc. Examples of mid-power products include tablets, ultra books, high-end smartphones, two-way radios, toys, industrial and medical equipment like barcode scanners, POS systems, health monitors, etc. Apart from this, Qi is also working on kitchen appliances and is defining specifications for devices like blenders, cooktops, coffee makers and others, that can be powered wirelessly.” TI offers multi-mode wireless charging chips that support Qi as well as PMA specs.
Powermat’s technology (which is the basis of the PMA’s specifictions) is also quite similar to Qi. It, too, works using tightly-coupled inductive charging, but the main difference is that it works on the 277-357kHz band, while WPC’s Qi works on the 100-205kHz band. The PMA provides a comprehensive suite of standards and protocols covering inductive power technology, resonant power technology (in progress), digital transceiver communication, cloud-based power management services and environmental sustainability. The specifiations are available on the consortium’s website.
One stark difference between Qi and Powermat is that, while one is backed mainly by manufacturers, the other is backed mainly by users. This is evident by the fact that the most influential board members of PMA include P&G, AT&T Mobility, Starbucks and Powermat. Powerkiss, an earlier Qi ally, has also now joined forces with the PMA, bringing with it large clients like McDonalds and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Delta Airlines’ lobbies, the revamped Barclays’ Centre, New York City’s Madison Square Garden, and Starbucks outlets are some of the places where one can experience PMA charging technology first-hand.General Motors has also chosen PMA’s technology for in-car wireless charging for its future models. DuPont Building Innovation has partnered with the PMA to embed wireless charging solutions underneath everyday surfaces like kitchen countertops, tables and desks. In short, the PMA is trying to become ubiquitous by wooing the users rather than the sellers of technology.
[stextbox id=”info” caption=”Key technologies”]• Wireless Power Consortium’s Qi
• Power Matters Alliance’s Power 2.0
• Alliance for Wireless Power A4WP specifications (based on Qualcomm’s WiPower)
• WiTricity (which will be incorporated into Power 2.0)[/stextbox]
Another key reason why PMA is seen as giving Qi a run for its money is its focus on ‘intelligence’ and improving the user experience with cloud-based services. In February this year, for example, Duracell Powermat demonstrated wireless power surfaces that operate as a mesh network, allowing wireless charging spots across the globe to be centrally-monitored and managed. This new network topography is ideal for use in public places such as coffee shops, airports and arenas, enabling those who manage venues to monitor, upgrade and set policies for each wireless charging spot from a centralised cloud-based system. This transforms wireless power in public places from disjointed, standalone surfaces into a smart global network, allowing the implementation of new services and business models. For example, there could be apps that find the neares available wireless charging spot; service providers could control who can use their wireless power, for how long and on what terms; enterprises can monitor usage patterns, assess the health of their wireless power network and administer support and upgrades remotely, etc.
A4WP promises spatial freedom
One of the other notable contenders in this standards race is the A4WP, a consortium backed by Qualcomm and Samsung, amongst others. The focus of this group is to advance spatial freedom in wireless power. And so, the specifications they put out will take a different approach to wireless charging. The A4WP specification uses magnetic resonance to charge a device in close proximity (up to around 3.8 cm or 1.5 inches away). Thus, a tablet or smartphone can be charged when placed next to a laptop that sports resonance charging capabilities, without having to be placed directly on a charging platform.