Thursday, December 8, 2016
VOLUME -25 NUMBER 7
Publication Date: 07/1/2010
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Archive >  July 2010 Issue >  Tech Watch > 

Wireless Charging to Join the Mainstream
El Segundo, CA — The idea certainly isn't new; Nicola Tesla worked with wireless power transmission over 100 years ago. But his concept was to send electric power through the air for appreciable distances without wires. After all, he had already invented the induction motor and the transformer, both of which produced magnetic fields that could perform work over a distance. Why not send power through the air in gigantic lightning bolts to meet the needs of isolated communities that were cut off from power sources?

Trouble is, for all of Tesla's genius, his idea never got past the lightning bolt stage, and these potentially destructive and dangerous phenomena were unpredictable at best.

So we still need wires to carry power from the source to the user, or do we? Magnetism still works, and induced energy over short distances can have its advantages. Such as cordless battery charging to get rid of that tangle of wires hiding behind your desk or on the floor behind the file cabinet. There are consumer products out there now that are charged wirelessly, although they must be kept in close physical proximity to the charging circuits. Many electric toothbrushes, for example, charge without the befit of wires. There are even electric automobiles that accept a magnetic charging paddle. The whole key is that the charger and the chargee cannot be separated by more than a hair's breadth of distance, or the charging efficiency will drop drastically. Like a beam of light, magnetic fields dissipate exponentially over distance. But the idea is catching on and a product market is building. There are several reasons for this: forgetful people who neglect to charge cell phones — and their numbers are legion; eliminating the tangle of wires created by conventional chargers; extending the useful life of cell phones and other devices where charging plugs and jacks become worn after hundreds of plug and unplug cycles.

Wireless Chargers Gaining
In a recent report by iSuppli Corp., wireless charging is now set to gain a small but significant foothold in the marketplace this year, offering consumers a viable option to recharge various consumer electronic devices without the need for dedicated power adapters. While a number of serious challenges continue to present barriers to immediate wide adoption, wireless chargers will start shipping in meaningful volume this year and then quickly ramp up as the devices achieve greater market relevance.

Product-specific wireless charging, solutions are projected to reach 3.6 million units in 2010, up from a mere 200,000 units last year. From then on, the numbers will rise by extraordinary leaps and bounds: to 31.0 million units in 2011, 101.8 million in 2012, 174.2 million in 2013 and 234.9 million at the end of the forecast period in 2014.

Growth is also projected for aftermarket wireless charging at a massive five-year Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 133.4 percent — which will add another $2.9 billion to overall revenue by 2014. Product-specific solutions consist of a charger as well as a so-called "skin" or receiver sold for specific devices, while aftermarket solutions consist of universal chargers and various skins that can be utilized with multiple consumer electronics. Given the projected growth, wireless charging devices will find their way into an increasing array of applications, including mobile phones, portable media players, digital still cameras and mobile PCs. Among these, mobile phones will contribute the largest share of revenue to wireless charging — not only because of the large volume of mobile devices expected to benefit from the technology, but also because of participation by name brands in manufacturing the device, providing much needed market recognition in the process.

Scramble for Power
Based on the principle of electromagnetic induction, in which current generated from the induced magnetic field in the receiver coil is used to charge devices, the technology enjoys wide support from semiconductor vendors, device manufacturers, accessories makers as well as retailers. The most successful proponent of magnetic induction is Powermat, a Michigan-based company founded in 2009 that also owned 62 percent share of the wireless charging market in 2009 — the largest slice in the industry.

Other wireless charging technologies include conductive, developed by the company WildCharge and currently licensed to Procter and Gamble's Duracell; near-field magnetic resistance, championed by wireless telecom giant Qualcomm as well as Intel Corp.; and far field magnetic resonance, a technology that has raised safety as well as health concerns and for which no commercial products are available for the time being.

While most companies are not believed to be ready with any commercial products now, we can expect to see later this year. Several high-profile manufacturers are examining the feasibility of producing wireless charging solutions. The companies include Texas Instruments and ST-Ericsson from the semiconductor side; Nokia Corp. and Research In Motion Ltd. from the device manufacturer side; and Logitech International S.A. and Case-Mate from the accessory manufacturer side.

Barriers to Wide Adoption
Although wireless charging is poised for growth in 2010 and the years to come, it will take several years for manufacturers to fully implement wireless charging in their devices, iSuppli believes. In particular, manufacturers will need to consider how to integrate wireless charging into the design of printed circuit boards, and significant adoption of wireless charging technology will be needed to drive down costs.

One way to spur adoption by the market is for the wireless charging industry to adopt a common standard that would ensure interoperability among solutions being developed. At present, all commercial solutions are based on proprietary technology, and the skin made by one company, for example, will not work with the charger pad of another.

Until the industry finds a standard to follow, the wireless charging industry will be fragmented, and consumers will hesitate to adopt any solution that could be compromised by the rival companies. However, an open, standardized system will create a healthier competitive environment and prompt manufacturers to join forces — which will enhance consumer awareness and lead to adoption in the markets.

Contact: iSuppli Corp., 1700 E. Walnut Ave., El Segundo, CA 90245 310-524-4007 E-mail: info@isuppli.com Web:
http://www.isuppli.com

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