Wireless charging from 30 feet away -- does startup have a game-changer?

Ossia exec says Cota device can wirelessly charge multiple devices through walls, around corners

A startup on Tuesday unveiled technology that it claims can simultaneously charge multiple devices in a house, even through walls and around corners, by using the same radio spectrum as other wireless standards, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

"You don't have to put [the charging] device in every room. You just put it into one room in your house and it will power all your devices," said Hatem Zeine, founder of Ossia, developer of the technology. "It's like your Wi-Fi signal. If you can get a Wi-Fi signal, you'll be able to get power."

After six years of development, Ossia today unwrapped the new Cota wireless charging technology, which it says will be available to consumers and enterprises by 2015.

Zeine, demonstrated a prototype of the charging system at the TechCrunch Disrupt technology conference in San Francisco this week.

In a video posted by TechCrunch, Zeine held a 2- by 2- by 1-in. cube-shaped dongle device, plugged it into an iPhone 5 via a standard charging cable and held it in the air until the iPhone's screen displayed the green battery icon that indicated that it was wirelessly charging -- whereupon the audience erupted in applause.

"For me, wireless means remote, automatic, effortless," Zeine told the audience.

The Cota wireless charging system includes a charge-transmitting unit and a charge receiver. The charging unit in the video was only shown briefly, but it appeared to be a pillar-shaped piece of equipment that's about 6 feet tall. The receiver can be either a dongle unit or technology integrated into a device, such as a smartphone or a battery. While it has yet to be miniaturized, Zeine said the wireless technology will eventually be small enough to fit onto the motherboard of a smartphone or even in a triple-A battery.

Zeine said the wireless charging technology should appeal to enterprises such as oil and gas companies, where removing power wires from equipment could improve safety. "Imagine the impact of Cota on the medical [and] retail [industries] and the hundreds of devices [that] we call the Internet of things. The possibilities are endless," he added.

The wireless charging technology can deliver 1 watt of power at a distance of 30 feet, and it could span an entire home and could power multiple devices, Zeine said.

"Cota is inherently safe, as safe as your Wi-Fi hub," Zeine said. "A Cota-enabled device sends out a beacon signal that finds paths to the charger, which in turn returns the power signal through only those open paths back to the receiver, avoiding people or anything that absorbs its energy."

The Cota wireless charging system does not require a line of sight to the device being charged -- it can go through walls and around corners without interfering with other electronic equipment in its path, Zeine said.

According to Zeine, the Cota wireless charging technology was discovered by accident. While experimenting with wireless signal management, Zeine, a physicist, discovered that it's possible to focus a signal on a receiving device.

Zeine said his company currently holds four core patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, as well as other patents issued internationally. He plans to license the technology to equipment makers. He said Ossia is already discussing the technology with some companies.

A consumer version of the Cota transmitter would sell for about the same amount as a Wi-Fi hub -- "basically $100 or a little more," Zeine said.

While Zeine may believe his technology is without compare, there are other wireless charging systems, though most use ether tightly or loosely coupled magnetic induction technology based on the Qi standard or magnetic resonance technology, which can wirelessly charge devices over very short distances.

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