Wireless chargers invade furniture, cars

New technologies let multiple smartphones, tablets or other enabled devices charge at the same time

LAS VEGAS -- The Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), a consortium founded by Qualcomm and Samsung, said this week several of its members have begun producing products based on the group's Rezence specification for use in home furnishings and automobiles.

For instance, Samsung, Gill Electronics and Qualcomm have all passed the group's certification standards and have built chargers based on the specs for mobile devices. The chargers are shaped like pads that can be attached to the underside of furniture and embedded in automobile interiors.

At the CES conference here this week, Gill Electronics demonstrated an armrest for cars that can wirelessly charge multiple mobile devices. Gill said it is now working with several automakers, and expects that its Rezence-based charging technology will show up in vehicles by late 2014 or early 2015.

Qualcomm demonstrated for CES attendees a Rezence-based charging pad by attaching it to the bottom of an Ikea coffee table. Mark Hunsicker, senior director of product management, said the Qualcomm magnetic resonance technology can penetrate a solid object up to 20mm thick.

The A4WP consortium last year launched a certification program that lets developers and product makers to verify that devices meet its wireless charging specs.

Rezence-certified chargers should provide a charge in about the same time as a wired device.

Because the Rezence specification uses electromagnetic resonance technology, it is able to charge through objects, said Geoff Gordon, chair of marketing for A4WP.

A competing standard, Qi, championed by the Wireless Power Association (WPA), was also demonstrated products used in cars and furniture this week.

The Qi specification enables inductive or pad-style charging, as well as short-distance (1.5cm or less) magnetic resonance charging.

Both organizations are growing in members, though not all vendors have chosen sides and signed on with both standards groups.

The Qi specifications are supported by 200 companies, among them a veritable who's who of electronics, including LG Electronics, Sony, Nokia and Verizon Wireless.

The A4WP now has more than 70 members including Broadcom, Delphi, Fairchild Semiconductor, Haier, Intel, LG Electronics, Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics, SanDisk, TDK and Texas Instruments.

Mark Hunsicker, senior director of product management at Qualcomm, demonstrates Rezence wireless charging in an IKEA coffee table.

As with Qi, the A4WP has demonstrated its technology's ability to charge multiple devices, such as a tablet and a smartphone, at the same time.

A third group behind the push for wireless charging is the Power Matters Alliance (PMA), whose members include Duracell Powermat, developer of the most widely used wireless charging technology today. Starbucks coffee shops use Powermat technology to allow patrons to charge smartphones and tablets on tabletops.

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 email address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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

Tags Mobile/Wirelessconsumer electronicsNetworkingMobile device managementqualcommIkeasmartphoneswirelessmobile

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