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Power Up: The Evolution of Wireless Chargers

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 Image Source: Bezalel

 

Charging one’s phone without the help of messy cables and wires is still a fairly new concept to many. Wireless charging is now being offered in certain coffee shops and other establishments, but the general public still has yet to fully embrace the fact that they can now charge their devices without having to disentangle a charging cable from a bag and hunt down a socket to plug the charger into.

Despite its increasing popularity, for most of us, wireless charging is still something of a pipe dream rather than an actual reality.

But this could also be because, like many new technologies, wireless charging is still undergoing developments. In fact, a global wireless charging system that applies to all enabled devices has yet to be established, and some smartphone companies have yet to incorporate the technology into their products.

The fact of the matter is, wireless charging is still relatively new to us. But did you know that the idea of going wireless actually dates back to the 19th century?

Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane and talk about the origins of wireless charging and how it evolved into the devices that we know now:

 

Origins

In 1899, Nikola Tesla successfully came up with a way to light 200 bulbs with 100 million volts of power over 25 miles away from a power source. He dreamt of making the entire Earth powered wirelessly by a 187-foot tower that will transmit power from the hydroelectric power plant in Niagara Falls. Tesla fondly called this vision, the “Wireless World System.” However, this plan never came to fruition due to lack of financial support.

Today, the concept of wireless charging is being revived by various manufacturers through creating devices that would make it possible to charge phones and electronic vehicles without cords.

 

Powermat

Using Tesla’s research as foundation for its own studies, the creators behind Powermat came up with a way to deliver wireless energy. In 2007, the Powermat charging pad was introduced to the public at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Two years after, it was made available in stores. This pad can charge up to three devices at a time and works just like the wireless chargers of today, except that this one still had to be connected to an AC outlet. The Powermat charging pad came in two sizes: portable and and home model. The company claimed that it can charge just as efficiently as its traditional wired counterparts.

 

Qi

In 2009, the Wireless Power Consortium began pushing for the Qi standard of wireless charging in various mobile devices, starting with the Nokia Lumia 920 and Google Nexus 4. Now, it prides itself on being the most widely recognized wireless charging standard, having more than 1,296 compatible devices and 120 partners from different industries.

Qi either comes as a built-in feature of a mobile device, or a capability you can activate using a patch or a specialized Qi-enabling case.

 

From Powermat to PMA

Not to be outdone by its competitor, the Powermat group formed Power Matters Alliance and tried to get Starbucks on board. This explains why you can now see PMA charging mats in various Starbucks outlets. PMA was also able to sign big companies like General Motors, and WiTricity.

In May 2013, PMA was able to acquire Finnish wireless charging provider, PowerKiss, so it was able to secure a deal that makes it available in more than 1,000 McDonald’s restaurants across Europe.

 

AirFuel: PMA and A4WP

In an attempt to further elevate its position in the wireless charging market, PMA recently joined forces with the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) to form AirFuel. This newly formed organization aims to make wireless charging more consumer-friendly and accessible to all people.

Wireless chargers have come a long way since its inception in the early 1900s. From merely being remnants of Tesla’s unfulfilled vision, they are now actual products (albeit in a different form) that aim to make one’s mobile lifestyle easier.

 

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