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Qi Wireless Spec Grows; Transmitter Technology Shrinks

BARCELONA, SPAIN — The Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) was at Mobile World Congress 2014 to demonstrate an extension of its Qi magnetic resonance wireless-charging specification that allows for wireless charging over longer distances, with more placement freedom.

In addition, WPC member NXP Semiconductors demonstrated a tiny new Qi transmitter that integrates all the circuits for a 5-volt mobile charger in a compact package measuring 5mm square as well as two ‘smart’ wireless charging reference designs for 12- volt and 19-volt Qi transmitters for larger devices, that add NFC technology for smart charging capabilities.

The resonance extension of the Qi spec is said to improve efficiency and reduce lower radio frequency interference, the WPC said, and it is compatible with the more than 400 existing Qi-certified products currently on the market worldwide.

It was the first demonstration of the enhanced capabilities in Europe, the group said, and featured Qi charging products and prototypes from members ConvenientPower, PowerbyProxi, Leggett & Platt, PLDS and Panasonic, among others.

On display were Qi-compatible smartphones and tablets; automotive cradles and in-console chargers; “the industry’s first wireless avionics charger,” according to WPC; as well as gaming accessories and new wireless-charging solutions for the office, home and public spaces.

Among the new products, Zens debuted a a Qi wireless portable audio Bluetooth speaker with an integrated wireless charging pad. The speaker wirelessly streams music through any Bluetooth-enabled device while charging it with a built-in 4,500mAh battery. It features two 5-watt speakers and also has NFC, so if a user’s phone doesn’t have Qi wireless charging built-in, it can still be used to stream audio with a tap to pair.

Commenting on its new transmitter technology, NXP said the tiny footprint opens up the potential for OEMs to design innovative wireless charging pads that can fit the transmitter within the center of the Qi coil, bringing system costs down and adding “a high degree of freedom in portable wireless charger design.”

Besides the new transmitter technology, NXP’s NFC-based smart wireless charging reference designs open up a wide range of additional functionality to charging surfaces. For instance, users can configure wireless charging pad settings via any NFCenabled phone or tablet, and NFC could be used to “wake up” the wireless charger, thus enabling zero standby current when not in use. Other smart features include automatic Bluetooth pairing and launching applications and websites when an NFC-enabled phone is placed on the charging pad.

On the eve of the show, the WPC pegged its installed Qi base worldwide at more than 40 million units, including 62 models of Qi-enabled phones and tablets available in the market, including the Samsung Galaxy S4 and S III, Nokia Lumia 1020, LG G2, Motorola Droid Maxx and Mini, Google Nexus 5 and the Google Nexus 7 tablet.

Worldwide mobile carrier members include Orange, T-Mobile, Vodafone, China Mobile, NTT DOCOMO, Telefonica and Verizon.

Automotive members include Audi, BMW, Daimler, Harrier, Jeep, Prius, Porsche, Ssangyong, Toyota and Volkswagen.

“2014 is going to be an exciting year for Qi and the wireless-power industry,” said John Perzow, WPC market development VP. “The WPC has created a process where the best minds in the industry work together to innovate. The magnetic resonant demo is a perfect example of what is possible when you create a competitive-cooperative environment and then get out of the way.”

Other members of the WPC include Foxconn, Haier, HTC, IKEA, LG, Qualcomm, Royal Philips, Samsung, Sony, Texas Instruments, Toshiba and ZTE.

In February, the Alliance For Wireless Power (A4WP) announced that Dell is backing its rival Rezence magnetic resonance wireless technology, which was also be demonstrated at the show.

Previously, another rival, the Power Matters Alliance (PMA), backer of WiTricity and Powermat, joined forces with the A4WP to establish interoperability of their respective wireless-power standards under the Rezence spec, leveling the playing field for magnetic resonance charging to the two rival standards.

Meantime, MediaTek announced at the show what it said is the world’s first multi-mode wireless charging application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) to support both competing standards. The ASIC supports the resonant charging technology of all current inductive chargers certified by the PMA and WPC.