Your next smartphone is now closer to wireless charging

The consolidation of two groups should help the industry standardize -- and spread

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The PMA's specification includes an API that monitors the power that's transmitted, and can manage pre-specified policies, such as how much power any device requires before it's fully charged.

Daniel Schreiber, president of Powermat and a board member of the PMA, said Powermat's inductive technology is more efficient than resonant charging, making it preferable for places like a coffee shop that doesn't want to waste power.

Consumers also may be more nervous about having their mobile devices charge next to a stranger's, Schreiber said, making inductive charging's single device limitation more attractive.

"They're highly complimentary implementations, much like WiFi and 4G," Schreiber said, referring to magnetic induction and resonant charging. "They're not displacing each other, but complimentary to one anther."

Not everyone agrees.

The end game will be resonance-only wireless charging with machine-to-machine data transfer, according to Reinier van der Lee, director of product marketing at Broadcom. "We always felt resonant technology was the way to go, but we also feel the [PMA's] inductive install base needs to be offered a transition path to resonant charging," van der Lee said.

TI
An example of Texas Instrument's wireless charging coil and chip technology. The device can be much smaller and would be the electrical receiver in a mobile device.

Broadcom, a member of the A4WP, plans to unveil a chipset later this year that will include wireless power management capabilities. Texas Instruments already makes wireless charging chipsets.

John Perzow, the vice president of market development for the WPC, said the rival organizations joined forces after realizing their own products could not address the entire market. But the PMA and A4WP will have to make major tradeoffs to achieve interoperability between their technologies.

"For instance, you can always shoehorn two technologies in one phone, a so-called 'dual-mode' approach. But this increases cost and complexity and typically requires tradeoffs like lower efficiency," Perzow said.

IHS's Sanderson is hopeful that all three wireless power consortiums can eventually work together on universal standards. Until then, handset, tablet and other electronic device manufacturers will remain wary about choosing one technology over another, fearful they'll make the wrong bet.

Perzow said the WPC is in talks with the PMA and the A4WP.

"But let's be clear," he said. "What PMA and A4WP announced is not one merged group. They both are filling gaps with technology the other didn't have," Perzow said.

"When you buy Qi, you know it will work with whatever technology and features evolve down the road," he continued. "Keeping this compatibility is a top goal, and we're very interested and eager to cooperate with anyone that shares that goal, Including PMA and A4WP."

Wireless charging company WiTricity demonstrates a new power charging device that can recharge multiple iPhone 5 units without needing a specific charging location.

Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech 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.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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