Why 2014 Will be a Big Year for Wireless Charging

2014 is a big year; we’ve seen a lot of technological changes since 2013 including Google glass, solar aircraft, smartwatches, automation in retail, curved phones and now, wireless chargers. Apart from all that, you are a year older since last year. Not bad.

Imagine a world without the hassle of cords. Just a piece of tech small enough to fit in your palm could power your mobile devices and even your laptops in the near future. Wouldn’t it be convenient? Techies have said that this technology will be made widely available in the market this year (although it has been tried and tested even years before), will you be up for it?

Starbucks and Duracell Deal

DURACELL POWERMAT WIRELESS CHARGING STARBUCKSStarbucks customers will get convenient charging through Powermat in a recent deal between the coffee shop

brand and Duracell. photo: PR Newswire

In the news last month, Starbucks announced the offer of free wireless charging in its stores for its customers. This would eliminate the sockets needed with wired chargers. This Starbucks project was in collaboration with Duracell Powermat and will pilot in the US.

What the coffee shop is planning is to integrate the wireless chargers in their tables. This is bringing Starbucks customers to a whole new level of convenience. So yes, next time you find yourself in Starbucks, it isn’t just your coffee which will be present in your table, rather a table-embedded pad for a wireless charger for your convenience. This and making it widely advertise will be the needed push of this new technology to be known in the mainstream market.

The catch is, these chargers may only be compatible to certain type or model of devices. Apple for example won’t be compatible with the Powermat PMA format, so users may need special casings to be able to avail of Starbucks wireless charging. Samsung, AT&T, Blackberry, LG, HTC and Huawei on the other hand have native compatibility with the device’s standards.

How it will roll out with the famous coffee shop is still to be seen. But you will be seeing it this year.

How Wireless Charging Works

10544250263_4c5de03934_hFor the device to be charged compatibly with the wireless charger, it needs to have the receiving coil (pictured here) either built internally in the device or integrated into a third party casing. photo: Vishay Intertechnology

Okay, we’ve gone a long way with introducing the wireless charging and how Starbucks have seen this technology as another way to get ahead of its competitors. Now, with no cords to connect the phone from the charger, how will the transfer of energy happen? For masses this seemed too impossible a claim. With science, it is not the question of how, rather, of when. Not when it was invented (thanks Tesla for the idea) but when will the general public start to accept it as part of their daily lives.

Wireless charging has been famous even way back in history. It makes use of magnetic induction to transfer power.

Inside the wireless charger, there is a mat of induction coils. These coils are wired and will be charged for the power source. When a device needs to be charged, it needs to get in contact with the surface of the charger or be close to it. When it comes in contact with the device, the inductor coils inside the charger’s mat will start generating the magnetic field. This generated magnetic field will induce electricity to the device, charging its battery.

The device needs to have a compatible induction coil within it. Wireless charging possibilities isn’t confined to the mobile devices, the transportation industry even had the first go at it. And with it now going mainstream, the medical field is even seeing benefits from the technology for its medical devices.

For cars that run on electricity, once the technology is finally developed in sophistication, consumers will only need to park over a wireless charger and power up. This, I guess, beats the act of refueling and charging with wires. See this charging Tesla below. Neat.

charging teslaYes, you really need to revamp your savings efforts for this. photo: Simon Bisson via flickr

Benefits of Cordless Chargers

Before everything else, I have to make it clear, I am not an advocate (yet) nor was I against wireless charging. I was just echoing the voice and current pulse of the consumers. So given that wireless charging will be a mainstream idea this year for mobile devices, how will its benefits really spell out? Here are some of its advantages:

  • Wireless. Of course, this is the main reason why it is drawing so much attention now. There will be no lugging of long and tangling cords. No more fighting for outlets. And admit it, the idea of the word “wireless” is associated by the human brain with convenience, modern and high tech.
  • Portable. Wired chargers are portable and they dont restrict consumers mobility. You can’t leave your phone charging in an airport socket to get coffee. Wireless charging can happen anywhere.
  • Safer. There is a reduced chance of getting shocked and tripping on a wire. There is no direct current that runs between the charger and the charged device, thus fewer chances of electric shock.
  • Less wear and tear for the device. Since there will be less and less contact between the socket of the device and the cable, the device will get less wear.
  • Future of medical devices. There are medical devices that are inserted in the human body but need to be recharged after a specific time frame. Wires have been used in the past, however, now the wireless charger may just need to be near the device outside the human skin to start charging. With medical equipment too, it can help charging without the problem of bacterial contamination when in contact with a wired charger.

Is there any Disadvantage for this technology?

Although wireless charging is a promising technology, nothing that is “new” can ever come out without a disadvantage. Here are some of them:

  1. Costly. Definitely, these wireless chargers will cost a lot at first. But once it goes mainstream, prices will start to reduce until everybody seems to be able to afford it.
  2. Less efficient. With current models, high current and voltage charging is not yet supported. Fast charging is still being studied. But in no time, this should have some solutions.
  3. Won’t support older device. And those that are not in line of the standards of the wireless charger’s manufacturer.
  4. Heat Wastage. Wireless chargers are prone to produce more heat. Meaning, there is extra heating compared to the traditional charging experience.
  5. Limited range. the device needs to be in contact or very near the charger to charge.
  6. Compatibility issues. There are mobile device which aren’t geared yet for wireless charging. Like apple products. For an iPhone to be charged wireless, it needs a special casing first to induce the charging process.

Ethical Considerations For Worldwide Wireless Charging

In this thorough examination of wireless charging on a wide scale, Ethical Implications of Wireless Power, the author discusses the uncertainty of the new technology and the ethical issues it will later face. Of course the first would be the preservation of the electric companies of their wired products. He also discussed the uncertainty of the effects this device will have on human health.

For example how will this wireless chargers impact health with the waves of energy being produced?

In the environmental side of the authors words, once the world transitioned to a wireless charging practice, there will be lots of infrastructure, electrical devices and wires, of course, which will need to be trashed. They will be in large quantities not to mention all the compounds and chemicals they contain.

Are you up for it?

8239951271_f8b9268d35_zLumia phone and its charging plate. photo: Nokia Connect

Wireless charging will still find that it has to traverse a longer path before it becomes perfect. A few nips and tucks here and there will finalize and nail its place for the mainstream tech consumers. 2014 is a year of innovations, wireless charging is just one of the many trends we have seen, albeit a very interesting and beneficial one. And well, Starbucks is smart to jump for it.

For what it is worth and the benefits it has, will you be ready for wireless charging?

Although there are some issues, experts said that the benefits will still supersede the disadvantages. So, will you be in the line for the purchase of this technology? Or will you let it pass? Undecided?

featured image: LG전자 via flickr


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