You’re sitting in the local coffee shop, the airport, or a hotel room in the big city tapping away on your device when suddenly you get the dreaded low battery notification. These days, chances are that notice will send you scrambling for a charging cord. But a new wireless charging technology backed by the AirFuel Alliance could change that – in fact, it might mean you won’t get that notification in the first place if you’re sitting in the right spot.
The name of the new game in town is “resonant,” a type of wireless charging technology that has the support of companies like Qualcomm, Boeone, Chargifi, MGE Group, NewVastek, and ON Semiconductor. Unlike inductive charging terminals (think those little disks in the center of Starbucks tables), resonant systems don’t require venues to drill or cut holes into their furniture. Resonant transmitters are instead simply mounted underneath table tops and counters.
The systems also offer a bit more wiggle room for those seeking to top off their battery without putting down their device. Where inductive systems require a smartphone or other device to be placed pretty much directly on a charging point with little room for error, resonant systems spread the charging capability far enough to, for instance, cover a whole coffee table. Plus, the technology allows users to keep the device in their hands – up to a few inches off the table top – while it works.
Both of those factors, AirFuel Alliance President and Chairman Ron Resnick said, make resonant a more attractive alternative to offer wireless charging.
Resonant deployments are already popping up across the globe, with some 4,000 points launched by Chargifi and Gill Electronics in the United States, United Kingdom, China, Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, Russia, Switzerland, Canada, South Africa, Israel, Brazil, and the Caribbean. Chargifi’s partners include Pret a Manger, Imperial College London, and the Atlanta Falcons, while Gill has teamed up with the likes of Marriot, Hilton, Starwood, McDonalds, and Chili’s.
While some of the deployments have been small – such as 72 points launched for a pizza chain in Germany – resonant recently scored a big win when the city of Shenzhen, China, selected the technology for its smart city ecosystem.
The Shenzhen project will begin with 1,000 points rolled out in hotel chains across the city before being expanded to cover a variety of public venues like airports, subway stations, restaurants, and shopping malls, the AirFuel Alliance said. And Shenzhen isn’t alone in its interest in resonant. Resnick said there are a number of other major cities in Asia looking very seriously at the technology.
According to Resnick, those deploying resonant systems will soon find support in the device ecosystem, with compatible gadgets expected to be released by “major phone OEMs” by the end of this year and into 2018. Major PC vendors like Dell, Lenovo, and HP are also getting on the resonant train, he said, because the technology is more efficient at higher power.
Resnick noted that some venues have been holding off with their resonant deployments to wait and see what the smartphone companies are planning to support. And now that those commitments are there, he believes the time is right for the technology to take off.
One more factor working in resonant’s favor? Cost.
While resonant is currently more expensive than inductive, Resnick said a major manufacturer in Asia has stated that within a year or two it will have whittled the price of resonant technology down to be the same as that of inductive.
And recent market research indicates there’s public demand to support the infrastructure expense of resonant deployments. IHS Markit reported last month that more than a third (35 percent) of U.S. consumers said they’ve used wireless charging, and three quarters of consumers would like to see wireless charging technology adopted in laptops in particular. Wearables was another category where consumers would like to see wireless charging, particularly for smart watches, IHS found.
The firm indicated that wireless charging transmitter shipments will ramp to 30 million units over the next decade, driven by transmitters designed for public infrastructure like restaurants and hotels.
“As more consumers start to own multiple wireless charging devices, the need for multi-device chargers will increase,” IHS observed. “As more applications in consumer, industrial, and medical markets adopt wireless power technology, IHS Markit expects market growth to be rapid.”