Wireless charging is still a contact sport

11 June 2016 by Steve Blum
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Closer to reality.

Energous Corporation is walking back claims of wirelessly charging batteries from across the room, but is moving ahead with products that charge on simple contact, without having to plug anything in. That kind of technology is reasonably well established – it’s a common enough demo to see at CES, for example – but the solutions on offer are still fiddly in nature and there’s no generally accepted standard yet.

Last year, at Pepcom’s Mobile Focus event in San Francisco, Energous had a gizmo generally the size and shape of a high end audio speaker on its exhibit table, that a spokesman said could deliver 4 watts of electrical to a suitably equipped device 15 feet away, and 16 watts at five feet. Energous was back at this year’s Mobile Focus with a less aggressive pitch and a different looking power beaming box that was described as a mock-up. It’s still effective up to 15 feet, I was told, but at “trickle charge” power levels. And it’s still not in production, or approved by the FCC, which has to sign off on anything that emits radio frequency radiation, regardless of purpose.

On the other hand, Energous was also showing a (now) FCC-approved contact-based charging device, called the Miniature WattUp, that’s essentially a dongle that you can plug into a USB port and then rest a small rechargeable device on top. So far, no consumer electronics manufacturers have adopted Energous’ technology – contact-based or otherwise – but at least it has a marketable product and reasonable hopes of seeing it in production next year.