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Qi: The Future of Wireless Charging

[fa icon="calendar"] Sep 30, 2013 5:15:17 AM / by Ryan Corey

You can do anything you want with a new smartphone. You can shoot HD video and edit it at the same time or play the latest games. The newest models feature quad-core processors, 2 GB of memory, and 1080p displays. Unfortunately, they also feature depressingly short battery life. You can head out the door with a fully charged phone and have a paperweight by lunchtime. However, one new wireless charging technology promises to make battery life irrelevant.

How It Works
The Qi wireless charging standard works by combining two sets of electromagnetic coils. One set of coils is located in the charging base and provides inductive power; the other set of coils is located inside the mobile device's battery.Instead of transmitting electricity, this system works by converting electricity inside the charging base into inductive power. Tiny fluctuations in its electromagnetic field can pass through a variety of materials including plastics and fabrics, and a receiver coil in the mobile device converts that inductive power back into usable electricity. Wireless charging completely eliminates the risk of an accidental shock, making inductive power the safest and easiest way to transfer electricity between two devices.

Current Uses
Personal hygiene manufacturers have actually used inductive charging for several decades. Sonicare and Oral-B electric toothbrushes have used wireless charging since the early '90s, and the technology is also prevalent in battery-operated trimmers and razors. Because inductive charging doesn't actually transmit electricity, there's no risk of a short in the bathroom.
The Wireless Power Consortium was founded in in December 2008, and more than 100 companies are now members. The first Qi standard was released in 2009 and provided light charging capabilities for small electronics like smartphones. While the WPC continues to work on extending the standard to more powerful devices, current transfer caps limit the technology to mobile devices.
Early Successes
With big names like Belkin, HTC, Energizer, Verizon Wireless, and Sony supporting the technology, Qi members bring multiple industries together. Restaurant chains and airports were among the earliest adopters of this technology. Starbucks has already installed wireless charging stations at 17 locations with plans for another 10. McDonald's also offers wireless charging at select locations.

Imagine sitting down to enjoy a burger or latte with friends. Your smartphone starts to beep, and you realize it's out of juice. Some restaurants already provide extra power outlets, but who wants to drag around an AC adapter all the time? With a Qi charging mat, you can simply place you phone down on the table and continue using it as normal.
LaGuardia's Delta Sky Club recently installed a number of chargers, and they'll soon become more popular than AC and USB outlets. When you sit down in an airport, you're already loaded with several bags, and you don't want to dig around for a charging cable. Wireless charging pads let you keep belongings neat and organized, and you'll have fewer opportunities to misplace your phone or wallet.

Future Possibilities
Big companies are getting behind this technology in record numbers, but individual consumers are also taking out their wallets and paying hundreds of dollars to upgrade their mobile devices. The Hustle bag is an Indiegogo project that has raised nearly twice its initial $35,000 goal. With three different sizes, the Hustle is perfect for both men and women. It includes an internal battery with a capacity of 4,250 mAh, which is powerful enough to fully recharge your smartphone several times.
When the Hustle's battery loses its charge, you can toss it on the charging station for a few hours and head back out. Unfortunately, the project does have one downside — early adopters will have to buy special batteries or cases for their phones because inductive charging doesn't work with standard lithium-ion batteries.
In the future, the Qi standard will extend to more power hungry applications. Five years from now, inductive power will recharge our laptops. The technology might even become powerful enough to keep electric cars topped off without plugging in. When that happens, the good old AC cord will go the way of the steam engine, VCR, and incandescent light bulb.


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Topics: Cisco, Cybersecurity, wireless security

Ryan Corey

Written by Ryan Corey

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