Wireless Charging For The Masses Arrives At CES

By John Laposky On Jan 18 2010 - 8:00am

Wireless charging solutions for mobile devices have been turning up sporadically at International CES for many years, but the category had a full-blown coming-out party at this year's International CES as the number of consumer solutions grew dramatically.

And while many of the products use rival technologies, all are based on the same principles of inductive coupling.

Backed by their own proprietary charging technology, Powermat unveiled a wide range of new wireless charging solutions at the show, expanding consumers' options in both the number of devices they can wirelessly charge as well as the number of ways they can charge them.

In addition to the more than 10 new phone models from HTC, BlackBerry, Nokia, LG, Samsung, Motorola and Sony Ericsson that debuted at CES with Powermat charging built in, the company debuted its new Powerpak, a battery case receiver that instantly upgrades almost any cellphone to wireless charging with no change to the existing phone's ergonomics and design.

The company also expanded its support of the iPhone 3G/3G S by introducing two new models: a silicone case receiver, and an extended battery case receiver that combines the dual benefits of extended battery life and wireless charging.

For the home or office, Powermat introduced a new line of single, double and triple position mats and added a collection of charging mat and receiver bundles.

For on-the-go use, Powermat's Portable 1X and Portable 2X boast high-capacity rechargeable batteries, allowing users to charge devices without the mats being plugged into an outlet. Both mats also fold into an included compact carrying case and ship with a set of international plugs.

Also new is the Powermat 3X Netbook that simultaneously charges a netbook and two additional low power devices such as phones, music players, Bluetooth headsets and eReaders.

Powermat also extended its reach to motorists by introducing the Powermat Car Charger.

“It's all about freedom and convenience,” said Ron Ferber, president of Powermat. “For 2010 we've taken our product line to a whole new level through the successful miniaturization of our technology to the ASIC level. We are already working with many top-tier OEM brands that will be launching Powermat-enabled models in 2010.”

Ran Poliakine, CEO of Powermat, was a panelist at Power to the People: Advances in Charging and Battery Technology at the show where he discussed advances in wireless charging technologies and what can be expected from the technology in the near future.

Using another proprietary technology, PureEnergy Solutions brought a number of its previously announced WildCharge consumer products to the show but also announced its partnership with Kimball Office to embed its WildCharge Grommet charger in office furniture. The Grommet is designed to fit into a standard-sized furniture grommet hole that already exists in most desks and work surfaces. The Grommet supports a wide variety of Wildcharge-enabled devices including cellphones, MP3 players and netbook and notebook PCs.

“With the launch of the WildCharge Grommet, we envision an an enormous opportunity to expand wire-free charging to offices, hotels, universities and other places where people gather and need immediate power for many devices,” said Dennis Grant, PureEnergy's chairman and CEO.

Besides the Kimball desk, two new WildCharge products were also being exhibited at the show: the High Powered WildCharge pad, designed for charging multiple devices, including a notebook PC, simultaneously; and the Portable In-Vehicle WildCharge pad, which has its own built-in rechargeable battery for portable charging and includes a vehicle mount. It's built-in battery can be charged by another WildCharge pad, standard USB or from a wall outlet.

The company also showed a number of OEM reference designs and prototypes ready to reach market in the first quarter. Among them: a 90-watt OEM insert module for use in an OEM's furniture or accessory designs; WildCharge Valets, organizers designed for the kitchen or office for charging netbooks or mobile devices as well as storing pens, mail, keys and other desktop items; a 120-watt desktop pad that can simultaneously charge more than 20 cellphones or low-power devices; and a new version of the small form 90-watt pad that is the company's best seller, including multiple color options.

PureEnergy also rolled out replacement back cover WildCharge adapters for the HTC Magic and Palm Pre cellphones, a hard case adapter for the iPhone and WildCharge Skins for the Blackberry Tour and Bold 9000.

Fulton Innovation, the creator and licensor of eCoupled wireless power technology, demonstrated wireless power in a variety of environmental vignettes in their booth, including charging integrated into such mobile lifestyle locations as a Toyota Avalon, a first-class airplane seat and a coffee shop. A wide range of devices was demonstrated with a variety of wireless power surfaces from counters and tables to the car's console, a tool chest and a wall system.

Products from Fulton's OEM partners were also on display. Among them, Case-mate announced a new wireless power protective case and charging pad for use with the iPhone 3G/3G S, and Dell's Latitude Z laptop with wireless power dock and Energizer's Hard Case Professional LED swivel light with a Gamber-Johnson charging mount, both launched in September, were shown.

Texas Instruments, a Fulton supply-chain partner, announced the development of a technology evaluation kit that supports eCoupled technology. The bqTESLA Contactless Charging Evaluation Kit will be available to manufacturers in the first quarter.

“We're thrilled to be back at CES this year with products in market and more than three dozen demonstrations of eCoupled wireless power in our booth,” said Dave Baarman, advanced technologies director for Fulton. “The dedication of our partners to integrating and commercializing wireless power is making this a reality for consumers. The fact that we have more than 25 partner companies supporting us in our booth this year clearly demonstrates the widespread acceptance of wireless power as a viable commercial technology. The key to making wireless power easy to integrate for manufacturers and easy to use for consumers will be the universal standard.”

To that end, the Wireless Power Consortium was present in the Fulton booth to discuss progress of the Qi (pronounced ch'i, Chinese for “life energy”) standard, based on Fulton's technology. The group expects a standard to be published in the coming months.

Consortium members include Olympus, Nokia, Philips, RIM, Sanyo, Texas Instrument, Samsung, Energizer and Duracell and iGo, among others.

Duracell showed it's MyGrid multiple device charging pad based on the technology. Using Power Sleeves or a Power Clip tip and a Power Clip adapter, almost any portable device can be charged on the pad. The MyGrip will retail for $79.99 and the Power Sleeves, Power Clip tips and Power Clip adapter are available for a $34.99 suggested retail price. Sleeves and tips are available for certain series of BlackBerry Pearl, Curve and Bold smartphones, Motorola's Razr and Motoq series, Nokia's E71 as well as the iPod Touch.

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