Networking

Powermat hopes to charge your gadgets without wires

Powermat plans to launch a line of wireless charging systems sometime this Fall. Bill Detwiler got a preview of Powermat's wireless induction systems at CES 2009.

If Powermat USA gets it's wish, the days of power cord spaghetti stuffed under desks and behind couches could be nearing an end.  The company (a joint venture between Michigan-based HoMedics and Israel/New York-based PowerMat, Ltd.) hopes to launch a line of wireless charging systems this Fall. Using the principles of magnetic induction, the Powermat charging systems are designed to work with a variety of gadgets--smartphones, digital cameras, portal game systems, MP3 players, and more. At CES 2009, I got a chance to tour Powermat's booth and check out their technology. As they company hoped to release it's products this Fall, I'm interested to see if they follow through.

Wireless power and induction charging systems aren't a new concept. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Nikola Tesla championed wireless power transmission. More recently, company's like Braun and Philips use induction systems to charge a variety devices--like electric toothbrushes. And, Powermat isn't the only company in the induction game either. Fulton Innovation's eCoupled has been working on wireless power systems for some time and the company has partnered with heavyweights in the battery and electronics markets (Philips, Duracell, Olympus, National Semiconductor, Texas Instruments, Samsung and others) to form the Wireless Power Consortium. Some device manufacturers are even providing their own wireless charging solutions. For example, Palm launched the Touchstone charging system to be used with the Palm Pre.

It seems that the wireless power market is just starting to heat up. And as products start to make their way to the consumer, we'll see which standards and which companies come out on top. Whether it's Powermat or another company, I'll just be glad to finally cut all those cables.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

7 comments
Dr. Solar
Dr. Solar

Where's all the outcry from the Global Warming Crowd? After pointing out the waste (and associated greenhouse gas emissions) of just leaving your wall-wart chargers plugged in all the time, in all the coverage of induction-charging devices I have yet to see anyone mention how much WORSE of a power waster it will be. Here's a device which is: 1. DESIGNED to be left plugged in all the time, 2. Doing dual conversions (electricity -> magnetism -> electricity) so substantial power will be lost in the conversions, 3. Leaking some of that magnetic energy out to nowhere even when it IS charging a device, so yet more of that inefficient power is wasted. Just proves my point, people don't REALLY believe in Global Warming.

junk1
junk1

Bill, did they provide any information on the power efficiency of the charging devices? If the efficiency is good, this is a really cool technology, but if it is a power hog, I don't think it would go to far until it is efficient. Two efficiency issues: 1) Efficiency of charging and 2) Power draw when nothing is being charged. Let us know if you can get those facts!

markosjal
markosjal

It would be interesting too know about the efficiency of the charging systems. Frankly it does not seem as if it could be as efficient as wired charging. I am all for unified charging systems and I think it is too long in coming. I think that if the average consumer consolidated their gadget charging into a single device, it could result in huge energy savings over time, but the systems MUST be efficient.

jjcanaday
jjcanaday

...if we could just get some standardisation of charging ports!

sjdorst
sjdorst

Given the low percentage of time my cellphone is on the charger, I think the power draw when nothing is being charged is likely a more important factor than the efficiency when charging.

psquare11
psquare11

I'm not too savvy, but what are the risks of inadvertent damage to magnetic media from these charging pads?

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Earlier this year, Apple, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Research In Motion, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Texas Instruments, NEC, and Qualcomm agreed to use micro-USB as the universal cell phone charger standard in Europe. http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-10274953-94.html I certainly hope, and expect, the US to eventually get the standard by proxy--as manufacturers will want to save on costs by making devices with only one charging port.

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