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Wireless Power: Powermat and WildCharge

How many different power adapters do you have for your portable devices? How many do you need to pack for a trip? There's been some movement to using standard (mini) USB connectors for power, but too many of our devices still have custom connectors and require dedicated power adapters. So even if you have a good external power charger or battery (see previous post), you still need to collect the right connector tips to hook up your different devices.

Thus the attraction of wireless power. Just plunk your mobile phone -- or music player, or even laptop -- down on a power pad and it will charge up. No need for all those power adaptors and cords, and no need to worry about having the right connector tips.

This year promises to see several such wireless power systems coming to market. These companies hope to become a ubiquitous standard, built into many devices, with power pads not only in your home and office (maybe as part of a counter top or a desk), but also available in public areas. And until this technology is licensed into portable devices, these companies also will offer adapter skins for popular devices.

The WildCharge wire-free power system uses conduction, with direct physical contact between the charging pad and the device (through small metallic nubs).

As a result, the pads can work with multiple devices, placed in any orientation, with high efficiency and lower cost. There's no associated electro magnetic or other radiation, so the pads are safe for hard drives and credit cards.

The current WildCharger charging pad is 8 x 6 inches and delivers up to 15 Watts. Adapters are currently available for the Motorola RAZR and BlackBerry Curve & Perl. The pad is $49, adapters are $34, and the pad bundled with an adapter is $79.

The Powermat wireless charging system uses magnetic induction, a shared magnetic field between the pad and the device.

This approach can charge at the same rate as a device's own charger, can simultaneous charge 3 to 6 devices, and handle both low and high capacity devices (cell phones to laptops).

As you place the device into the magnetic field on the pad, you can feel it snap into place on one of the fixed charging locations.

The Powermat approach actually implements a data protocol between the mat and receiver, which can authenticate the connection and manage the power flow. In the future, it also can be used to wirelessly transmit data, for example to sync the device. The first products are schedule to be available at retail in the fall, priced around $100 for the mat.

The Palm Touchstone charging dock accessory for the Palm Pre (see previous post) also uses a magnetic connection to hold the phone on the charging stand.

See my Portable Power Accessories Gallery for more on wireless and other power options.

Manifest Tech Site

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This entry posted on February 5, 2009.

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