The future of gadgets without power cords? Not so fast

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The future of gadgets without power cords? Not so fast
This is an attractive future – powering your gadget without all the annoying charging lines.

Researchers have been pursuing this future for many years. Samsung has been integrating wireless charging into Galaxy phones. According to reports, Apple plans to wirelessly charge its next-generation iPhone. This month, Dell released the first laptop that can be wirelessly charged.

Some experts say wireless power supplies may change consumer electronics like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology. However, using wireless power as a standard consumer feature is a major technology – and a psychological challenge.

Time problem

If you encounter Starbucks in Boston, you may notice a small circle power pad on the table. They are used to charge your phone, especially for Samsung phones launched after 2015. You put your phone on the mat and charge the phone without wires.

Borui Lee owns one of the Samsung phones and sits on one of the power pads. But if you ask him how often he uses such a mat, he starts to laugh.

“It’s like zero!” he said. “I may come to Starbucks once a week. If I put my phone there, I will use it.”

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Starbucks makes it more addictive by charging via wireless phones
Lee said that when he first bought a mobile phone, he was very excited about the wireless charging function because he bought a personal power pad. But then: “I used it for about three months before returning to the cable charger.”

Li’s complaint is time. He said that charging with wires is twice as fast – and his phone has a fast-charging cable that works faster. At Starbucks, he said his phone had been on the power pad for about an hour and the charge was only about 20%.

Notebook breakthrough

A technology company called WiTricity says it is developing faster wireless power than you would see at Starbucks.

About a decade ago, WiTricity was separated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and worked with Dell to develop a new laptop called the Latitude 7285, which is wirelessly charged by magnetic resonance technology.

Morris Kesler, chief technology officer of WiTricity, explained: “The power supply is the power source of the laptop and can generate the magnetic field that the laptop uses to charge.”

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He said that the mat charges the laptop as fast as the traditional power cord, but there is a problem here: even if you can give up the laptop’s power cord, the charging pad must be plugged in to work properly. Therefore, you cannot charge wirelessly on the go.

“The idea is that you might have one of them installed on your desktop,” Kessler said. “You might have one in a conference room. You just have to put your device there and charge. You might have one at home…. Conveniently, I don’t have to worry about plugging and plugging the adapter with me.”

Of course, this adds up: the price of each mat is $200.

Dell’s Kelli Hodges said the new notebook is currently a special product that better meets the needs of the workplace than the average consumer and helps Dell evaluate the market.

“I will say that it is part of the mainstream we are doing, and I think you may have considered it for two years,” she said.

Overcoming reluctance

Kitzler of WiTricity said that the Dell laptop is just the beginning.

He imagined the future of this utopia, wireless charging is around us. You drive the electric car to a garage with a wireless charging pad on the floor. You open the door of the house, put the phone on the kitchen counter, and the wireless charging technology is installed on the countertop.

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IHS Markit analyst David Green said the future is still far from being possible, although the new laptop may be an important step in the industry.

He said that in 2016, there were less than 240 million devices with wireless charging capabilities shipped worldwide. “But growth can be huge,” Green added. “By 2025, you will talk about wireless charging of more than 2 billion devices a year.”

Green said the biggest challenge will be to convince people to try new technologies.

“With a case of eggs and eggs, consumers don’t really want to know something based on convenience because they think they are doing very well,” he said. “When people start using it, they like it. So it’s hard to use it for the first time.”

Back to Starbucks, Lee said that although he prefers a fast charging line, he believes people will want to charge wirelessly. But what he really wants is portability – not something built into the table, but what he carries with him – basically the freedom to charge anytime, anywhere.

A California-based company called Energous is working on the problem – mainly Wi-Fi charging.

“We expect the transmitter to be available in the market early next year,” said Energous CEO Steve Rizzone. “What we are talking about is 2 to 3 feet of power from the transmitter… completely wireless.”

Rizzone did not specify any customers, but he insisted that Energous’ interests were beyond its support.

However, Wi-Fi charging is not available for any consumer product. Currently, it is still a science fiction.

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