Electricity's in the air: Powermat ties the knot with PowerKiss

By combining forces, the two wireless charging giants hope to create one consistent charging experience for customers

Powermat Technologies has announced an agreement to merge with its European counterpart, PowerKiss, in a deal that will make what once was two disparate wireless power specifications come together under one.

The two companies will come under the Powermat Technologies name, and both are Power Matters Alliance (PMA), which developed the Power 2.0 specification. PowerKiss joined the PMA in March.

The PMA's Power 2.0 standard has the backing of AT&T, Procter & Gamble, and Starbucks.

wireless charging
A Samsung Galaxy S III phone charging at a Boston Starbucks (source: Duracell Powermat)

Among airports, coffee shops, malls and arenas, Powermat, owned by Duracell, claims it has more than 1,500 charging spots in the U.S. In Europe, PowerKiss said it has 1,000 charging spots in airports, hotels and cafes; it also recently announced wireless charging at some McDonald's restaurants.

The companies see the merger as an opportunity to create a consistent wireless charging experience for mobile users.

"Uniting forces behind a common standard ensures that consumers will be able to avail themselves of the widest possible ecosystem of public places where they can recharge," Ran Poliakine, CEO of Powermat, said in a statement. "Very soon consumers will be able to access wireless power seamlessly as they move between home, office, coffee shop, car and airport."

Powermat and PowerKiss are attempting to prevail against the competing Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), which supports the widely adopted Qi (pronounced "chee") standard used in Nokia, Samsung, and LG products. Like the Qi standard, the PMA's Power 2.0 specification is based on magnetic induction wireless power technology.

To date, most wireless charging products in the market have been built around magnetic induction charging techniques, which require that the device be in contact with a charging surface, such as a charging pad. The device must remain in a relatively small area before the magnetic power connection is broken. In contrast, magnetic resonant charging allows mobile devices to be in close proximity, but not directly touching a charging base and still be powered.

While resonant charging is based on the same transmitter/receiver coil technology as magnetic induction, it transmits power at a greater distance. Other companies, such as WiTricity and Power By Proxi, offer devices based on other specifications that can charge from feet away or can be charged simultaneously by dropping them into a box.

WiTricity also recently announced it has joined the PMA group. PMA recently formed a technical working group to add a magnetic resonant implementation to the "Power 2.0" group of specifications.

WiTricity has been appointed to vice-chair of the magnetic resonant working group, and their first task is to create a specification for smartphone-ready highly resonant wireless power. This specification, the first draft of which is expected to be available to PMA members later this year, will be fully compatible with the PMA's existing inductive wireless power specification and products.

Texas Instruments announced it would ship wireless charging chips this year that support multiple protocols, allowing a wider range of mobile devices to be charged using competing standards.

While TI said it would support the Power 2.0 specification being worked on by PMA, it already supports the Wireless Power Consortium's Qi (pronounced "chee") standard with its integrated circuits.

TI also said its next-generation of chips would additionally support the Alliance For Wireless Power's (A4WP) "flexible wireless power" specification.

The A4WP specification is supported by more than 30 members, including Samsung Electronics, Broadcom, IDT and Qualcomm.

A4WP's specification uses magnetic resonance. A4WP's specification allows for multiple mobile devices, from tablets to smartphones, to be charged at the same time when placed in a specified are of a charging pad.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at  @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

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