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Charging tech will be sampled to OEMs by the first half of 2013, product to land in 2013-2014

When Palm released the Pre back in June 2009, it wowed some by offering a wireless charger, dubbed the Touchstone.  While a neat concept, the idea has been slow to catch on.  But Intel Corp. (INTC) and Integrated Device Technology, Inc. (IDTI) have paired to give the idea of wireless charging new legs, with the goal of delivering a reference chipset by 2013.

I. Wireless Power, Wither Art Thou?

Wireless power transmission technology is not exactly new, and Palm was not the first to invent it.  American inventor Nikola Tesla, the first man to harness alternating current, hatched the idea and successfully demonstrated it in 1891, using wireless transmission to illuminate light bulbs in New York City.

But in the century since, the concept stalled, largely for lack of inventors as bold and brilliant as Tesla.

Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla invented wireless power transmission over a hundred years ago.
[Image Source: unknown]

In 2007 engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology demoed a wireless power transmission system.  The next year Intel helped MIT physicist Marin Soljacic improve on his design, and showed off a demo of Wireless Charging Technology (WCT).  In the demonstration Intel lit a light bulb with wirelessly transmitted energy as a homage to Tesla's famous 1891 experiment.

Intel wireless power
120 years later, Intel is finally close to catching up to Tesla. [Image Source: The Inquirer]

Today Intel is in a race with smaller startups like WiTricity to productize the technology and permeate the mass market with its wireless chargers.  The Intel/IDT solution looks to ditch traditional inductive charging (which requires contact with the device à la the Touchstone) for full wireless charging.  This means simply putting a compatible smartphone or camera next to your laptop would initiate the charging process.

II. Approaching the Market

Intel’s Dan Snyder writes:

Size and cost reductions are key to IDT’s solution, as is their differentiated “resonance wireless charging technology” that simplifies the way the PC charges the phone wirelessly. Intel is working with companies like IDT, peripheral vendors (from smartphone cases to printers and cameras), OEMs, and other ecosystem partners to deliver a cost-effective and simpler path to wireless charging.


Imagine, for example, this wireless charging solution in an Ultrabook of the future. How would it work? You are low on juice on your phone — you simply start the WCT detection software and place the smartphone close to your Ultrabook (about an inch or so). Coupling takes place between the two devices and energy begins to seamlessly and wirelessly flow from the Ultrabook to the smartphone. Within an hour, you have recharged your smartphone sufficiently to make it through the afternoon. No more wires or chargers.

IDT offers up some more details on the development of the chipset.  It reveals that it will be sampling the receiver integrated circuit (IC) later this year (for use by smartphone OEMs, camera OEMs, and other target device makers) and will start sampling the receiver (for laptop motherboard makers) in the first half of next year.

Wireless smartphone charging
Intel says the wireless charging product will land by late 2013 or early 2014. [Image Source: Intel]

Arman Naghavi, vice president and general manager of IDT's Analog and Power Division comments, "Our extensive experience in developing the innovative and highly integrated IDTP9030 transmitter and multi-mode IDTP9020 receiver has given IDT a proven leadership position in the wireless power market.   We welcome the advancements in resonance technology and will support its continued success by delivering the most integrated and full-featured ICs in the world. IDTis excited to collaborate with Intel and looks forward to playing a key role in the proliferation of wireless power technology, resulting in benefits for IDT customers and shareholders."

To be clear, once this product hits the market you will need two things:
  • A compatible laptop
  • A compatible mobile device (e.g. smartphone)
Once you have them, you'll be free to merrily charge away.

So how long will it be before you can ditch your USB cable and charge wirelessly?  Intel and IDT say within two years.

Sources: Intel [blog], IDT

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Ditching "inductive" charging...
By mattclary on 8/29/2012 1:18:48 PM , Rating: 3
It's still inductive charging, no matter what the fancy names or technologies involved.

RE: Ditching "inductive" charging...
By Integral9 on 8/29/2012 2:07:36 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, call it what they like, it's still induction.

Induction: Electromagnetic induction is the production of an electric current across a conductor moving through a magnetic field.

And personally, I'll stick with the charging "pad" plugged into the wall. As I don't want to set my wallet down next to my laptop, or put my laptop on my lap and wipe out all my credit cards, not to mention makes less of what pathetic battery life I still have left in my laptop.

As for innovative charging ideas for portable electronics like cell phones is concerned, a kinetic (use my random movements) or solar charger (use the lights in my office) would be more desirable to me.

RE: Ditching "inductive" charging...
By makken on 8/30/2012 1:04:09 AM , Rating: 3
not to mention makes less of what pathetic battery life I still have left in my laptop.

yeah this.

I can see some useful applications for it though, such as never having to worry about the batteries in your wireless keyboard / mouse / headphones / remote controls again

Having your car automatically charge your phone or laptop while you drive would be nice too

Sweet mother of god....
By Cheesew1z69 on 8/29/2012 1:07:04 PM , Rating: 2
/me pulls down glasses

RE: Sweet mother of god....
By geddarkstorm on 8/29/2012 1:17:26 PM , Rating: 2
Amazing, we're finally catching back up to the point we were 100 years ago! I wonder how we got so sidetracked.. that's the true stunning reveal.

Now if only we could rebuild Tesla's wireless power transmission tower... or investigate his ionosphere power harvesting ideas...

RE: Sweet mother of god....
By DanNeely on 8/29/2012 1:35:15 PM , Rating: 1
Because despite all the hyping done by Tesla fanboi's reasonably efficient wireless power transfer is hard. If you wanted a charger that only put 10 or 20% of its wall power into your device you could've had one years ago; but that would be ridiculously wasteful and widely mocked/ranted about (see the histrionics devices with standby power draws of 1 or 2% of load being labeled vampires).

RE: Sweet mother of god....
By magreen on 8/29/12, Rating: -1
RE: Sweet mother of god....
By name99 on 8/29/2012 4:14:06 PM , Rating: 1
Tesla's scheme was truly crappy in multiple ways; not just very low efficiency, but it also caused massive interference all over the microwave band --- you know, the same band we constantly want more of for WiFi and cellular...

This scheme is rather different; it's basically fancy inductive charging. The energy is released at between 100 and 200kHz (meaning there is interference with audio, but not with comms --- we shall see how that interference with audio plays out across the world in homes and theaters).

The company selling it, IDT, claims 73% end-to-end efficiency; though they also admit that this is dependent on the quality and size of the coils used, and one wonders whether what actually gets shipped in most products will have rather lower efficiency.

RE: Sweet mother of god....
By tastyratz on 9/4/2012 9:56:30 AM , Rating: 2
100-200khz even if picked up and transmitted in home audio would not matter. Most high end speakers top off at 20 or 24khz and even then that is above the usable range to most human listeners.

Health Issues
By aurareturn on 8/29/2012 1:15:45 PM , Rating: 2
This is cool and all but are there any health issues associated with wireless charging?

Imagine you are in a classroom and everybody is charging wireless. Or you are in a coffee shop. I just don't know about the idea of walking through current everywhere.

Note: I'm not an expert in this matter.

RE: Health Issues
By geddarkstorm on 8/29/2012 1:19:28 PM , Rating: 2
The short answer is "not that we've ever found". The long answer is, this should be no more dangerous than that microwaves of cell phones or radiowaves that permeate us constantly already, unless you stick a compatible circuit antenna in your flesh.

By danjw1 on 8/29/2012 7:13:07 PM , Rating: 2
What a waste, any power broadcast technology will waste electricity. Is it really so hard to plug the thing in? People seem to do it just fine now. With over 7B people on this tiny rock, that will add up quick. Looking a wikipedia, the highest inefficiency that has been achieved is still just 82% and that was for implantable devices, so I expect that is only low current application.

RE: Loss
By DennisB on 9/1/2012 1:53:43 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, why would I use my laptop for charging other things.
When there's no plug available or no electricity at all, energy has better uses for other things like preparing food. therwise just use solar energy.
Or just make a charging station...

that's nice
By Captain Awesome on 8/30/2012 9:32:50 AM , Rating: 2
That's nice, but I'd need my laptop to finish charging my phone much earlier than 2014, unless they also came out with a phone that could go 2 years between charges.

By btc909 on 8/30/2012 11:05:05 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, now the T-800 would never have to recharge!

Has Apple sued about this yet?
By mattclary on 8/29/2012 1:15:28 PM , Rating: 1
Just sayin...

RE: Has Apple sued about this yet?
By name99 on 8/29/12, Rating: 0
By Motoman on 8/29/2012 1:38:24 PM , Rating: 1
While the scale is much smaller in this case than the morons trying to use field induction to charge EVs, the fact of the matter is you're still wasting energy.

Plug your sh1t in.

This article is misleading.
By 91TTZ on 8/29/2012 1:51:59 PM , Rating: 1
This article makes some pretty bold, yet false statements. One is the statement "the concept stalled, largely for lack of inventors as bold and brilliant as Tesla." This isn't the case. Once the math of wireless energy transfer was understood it became obvious that efficiency was a major problem. The reason we use wires to transfer electricity is because it's the most efficient way to do it. You lose less energy using wires than you would if you transferred it wirelessly. We also know that you lose less energy if you step up the voltage and lower the amperage, which is why power lines carry electricity at thousands of volts and not 12 volts. Ever notice how thick wires are in a car compared to in your house?

Another similar false claim is "120 years later, Intel is finally close to catching up to Tesla."

There's no "catching up" to do. Tesla published his findings and they were used by others. This isn't a race where 2 teams compete independently from one another trying to achieve a goal, this is science where the discoveries of one person are shared with other scientists for the benefit of everyone.

In the case of cell phones, they use so little power that it's economically feasible to market a system that offers lower efficiency but more convenience. If you try to do that with cars or your house people would quickly be turned off by the extra expense and the idea would fail.

It seems like whenever a story involves Tesla it brings out the conspiracy theorists and other lunatics. The man was a scientist, not a wizard. He just happened to study electromagnetism which was baffling to people in the late 1800's.

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