Discussing wireless power at CES and looking forward to 2020
I recently concluded my visit to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and I have come back energized and excited – the future of wireless power is very bright. Conversations about wireless power were one of the big themes of CES, and the continued buzz from consumers is that they want to live in a world where we can power up without plugging in.
Whether you’re an AirFuel Alliance member, a prospective company who is considering joining us, or a wireless power enthusiast, I hope you can find my observations and insights helpful.
The Continued Demand for One-to-Many Wireless Charging Without Precise Placement
Apple’s AirPower continued to cast a long shadow at this year’s CES. Many companies were promising to deliver inductive wireless power solutions to charge multiple devices simultaneously – for example, a combination of various smartphones, smartwatches, and other wearables.
However, none of the products were ready for launch. These efforts are undoubtedly laudable, but I want to emphasize that there are fundamental challenges involved here that are difficult to overcome at systems operating at low frequencies (in hundreds of kHz) cost-effectively.
Wireless power is deceptively complex and I would direct you to the recent blog post for an in-depth discussion on AirPower’s challenges and what it means for the market. AirFuel Resonant standard available today offers the ability to charge multiple devices simultaneously without precise placement.
AirFuel RF and Uncoupled Charging Is Here
Energous, an AirFuel Board Member, recently enabled the launch of a partner hearing aid/PSAP (available on Amazon) that charges using RF waves, thus freeing consumers from tedious charging or battery replacement processes. Another hearing aid from Energous partner NewSound was also launched at this year’s CES, and should be available from partner doctors in the coming weeks. Energous and ZPower have also worked together to develop microbatteries that are charged via RF.
Energous also demonstrated the many use cases of RF-based power at this year’s CES, including contact-based charging with orientation freedom and charging over the air with a smart speaker transmitter design that charged multiple devices within range. Energous offers multiple reference design kits for RF-based wireless power that conform to applicable regulatory and safety requirements.
A number of other companies exhibiting at CES also demonstrated the capabilities of RF-based and other uncoupled charging technologies. The technology to deliver large amounts of power using Radio Frequency waves (RF) over distances has been available for decades. So, if the technology is available, what’s holding back the deployment of RF solutions to provide fully uncoupled charging solutions – sometimes also referred to as 3D or volumetric charging – based on RF?
The answer is government safety regulation. The use of commercial and industrial RF-based Wireless Power Transfer (WPT) is emerging, and governments are working to define WPT for their jurisdictions. The rules and regulations being set are for both safety and coexistence, and any viable WPT technology will need to comply with these rules to be adopted on a global scale. AirFuel Alliance and its members are working with regulatory bodies in defining these (safety and co-existence regulations)
In this context, it is noteworthy that Energous’ product launches based on AirFuel RF specifications have approval in 111 countries and more are expected.
GaN Semiconductors’ Huge Impact on Wireless Power
For me, CES 2020 will be remembered as the year of Gallium Nitride (GaN). Gallium Nitride-based power electronics devices have been in the market for a while. The consumers finally get to experience the difference GaN is going to make for their daily lives. The miniature GaN supplies were hard to miss at CES. The days of a traditional phone charger packing sufficient punch to power your laptop (and I should mention lighter backpacks) are finally here.
The dramatic reduction in the size of our power bricks is possible due to the higher frequency of operation. Competitively-priced GaN transistors make operation at higher frequencies possible without compromising efficiency. The same GaN power transistors will be revolutionizing wireless power next. The benefits of higher operational frequencies for wireless power systems have been long understood. Check out the blog post here for details on this topic, or view our recent webinar on GaN here.
AirFuel Alliance board member Efficient Power Conversion Company (EPC), and members GaN Systems and GaNPower Semiconductor(Foshan) Co., Ltd. are leading the industry, and they provide ready-to-integrate power electronics solutions for high-frequency wireless power systems.
Wireless Power in 2020 and Beyond
The 2020 Consumer Electronics Show put the spotlight on the endless possibilities of wireless power. Now is the time for inductive charging to give way to next-generation technologies, including the adoption of AirFuel Resonant and RF standards. AirFuel standards are essential to meeting consumer demands for increased freedom, powering multiple diverse devices, and the creation of scalable wireless power infrastructure.
Understanding the limits of technology, having an understanding of underlying fundamental science, and following safety requirements and regulations will be essential factors in bringing innovative solutions to market.
Sanjay Gupta, PhD
Here at AirFuel, we’ll be covering these topics in more depth on our blog (and in our upcoming webinars) in the next few months, so stay tuned for updates.
Want to play a key role in shaping the wireless power industry and growing the global marketplace? Join the AirFuel Alliance, and be part of an ecosystem that includes some of the biggest names in consumer electronics and mobile technology.
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