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Intel chooses sides in wireless power market

Alliance for Wireless Power, set to go head to head with two competing wireless charging groups, adds Intel to list of supporters

June 19, 2013 03:42 PM ET

Computerworld - Intel has joined The Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), an industry group that hopes its "flexible wireless power" specification for mobile wireless charging can become an industry standard.

Founded by Qualcomm and Samsung, A4WP claims to have nearly 50 members, including Broadcom, Delphi, Haier, LG Electronics, SanDisk, Integrated Device Technology (IDT), and now Intel.

A4WP's technology uses near-field magnetic resonance charging, which allows a loose coupling of the electromagnetic field so that multiple mobile devices can charge on a pad or other device at the same time.

The Alliance For Wireless Power shows how magnetic resonance works to wirelessly charge devices.

A4WP is competing with the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) and the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) for dominance in the nascent wireless charging market.

The WPC supports the widely-adopted Qi (pronounced "chee") standard used in Nokia, Samsung and LG products. The PMA is behind the Power 2.0 specification. Both Qi and Power 2.0 are based on magnetic induction wireless power technology, which creates a more tightly coupled electromagnetic charging field than the one created by magnetic resonance.

In a recent move that will put a bit more support behind the Power 2.0 standard, Duracell subsidiary Powermat Technologies announced an agreement to merge with its European counterpart, PowerKiss.

PowerKiss had supported the WPC's Qi standard, but the newly merged company will operate under the Powermat Technologies name and will be a member of the PMA.

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

Industry experts have said both magnetic resonance and magnetic induction have pros and cons.

Magnetic resonance allows for a larger charging field than magnetic induction, but charging multiple devices at the same time can increase charging time by splitting current, some analysts say. Supporters of magnetic resonance charging have denied that charging multiple devices reduces the electrical current.

Magnetic induction more tightly limits the area in which mobile devices can move while charging, but backers say it ensures peak electrical transfer, according to experts.

There are companies, such as WiTricity and Power By Proxi, that offer charging systems based on other specifications that are designed to charge devices from feet away or simultaneously charge multiple devices in a box. WiTricity recently announced that it has joined the PMA.

A4WP Chairman Kamil Grajski said his group aims to "[remain] above the fray of the squabble that has broken out between first-generation players WPC and PMA" and "has kept its eye on the next generation of [wireless charging] technologies and enhanced user experience through wireless charging spatial freedom."

The group, said Grajski, has "amassed a formidable list of member companies that supply or deliver to consumers the full range of mobile computing devices, from cellphones and smartphones to tablets, ultrabooks and on up to laptops. A generational shift has begun."

While some vendors have joined a single standards group, other mobile device, integrated chip and computer companies have opted instead to cast their lots with multiple groups rather than choose a side now.

For example, while Texas Instruments said its integrated circuits will support the PMA's Power 2.0 specification as well as the WPC's Qi standard.

However, Intel, for its part, "believes the A4WP specification, particularly the use of near-field magnetic resonance technology, can provide a compelling consumer experience and enable new usage models that make device charging almost automatic," said Navin Shenoy, general manager of the chip maker's mobile client platform division.

"In joining A4WP, we look forward ... to contributing to standards that help fuel an ecosystem of innovative solutions capable of simultaneously charging a range of devices, from low-power accessories to smartphones, tablets and ultrabooks," he added.

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

Read more about Mobile/Wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.



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