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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