As more consumers look for ways to cut the cord and experience true mobile freedom, companies like Samsung have raced to develop “wireless” charging options. But though these new charging pads eliminate the need for a corded connection, proximity is still a necessity.
To find out what the future of truly wireless charging looks like and why it’s so important to consumers, Wireless Week reached out to Ossia’s CCO Abid Hussain to learn more about the company’s Wi-Fi-like Cota charging technology.
Wireless Week: What factors caused companies to look toward wireless charging solutions? Why is a wireless charging option so important to consumers?
Abid Hussain: Consumers have been trained to live with the limitations of their devices’ batteries. It has become a cultural backdrop around how we live our lives. We carry cables and reserve battery packs for those moments when we run out of power. This power limitation of our devices has also limited the device designer and manufacturers, who had to reduce the capabilities of the devices to make them last long enough. Wouldn’t it be great if we can have more features and capacities in our devices and at the same time we would not have to consciously think about their batteries?
WW: What kinds of wireless power products are out there today? What are some of their strengths and weaknesses?
Hussain: The only “wireless power” available on the market today are the phone pad chargers. I use quotes for wireless power since their functionality does not differ from wired power: you have to remember to charge your device and when it is charging, it is next to a wall socket. If Wi-Fi worked by having to place your phone on the Wi-Fi hub, you would never call it wireless Internet.
The other technologies being proposed by other companies leverage a technique called “beamforming” which is borrowed from radar systems. As you can imagine beamforming creates a beam of signals between the transmitter and receiver; this requires line of sight and brings many limitations such as keeping your device in sight of the transmitter while you also need many transmitters to have wireless power throughout the house and even multiple transmitters for a single room. This technique requires wave-based signals and is currently being proposed using electro-magnetic Radio Frequency waves as well as ultrasound. The second of which I find strange, since air is resistant to ultrasound and loses its energy very quickly when traveling in air.
WW: How is Ossia working to improve wireless charging? What innovations does the company bring to the table?
Hussain: Ossia is bringing several innovations that are critical to wireless power. First, non-line-of-sight power delivery over distance. The technology can find its way around objects and people by reflecting throughout the environment to deliver power to the device and only the device. Second, small form factor for the receiving device. (Ossia’s Cota technology) uses the same antenna as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to deliver power, which means the Cota receiver devices can have the same small familiar form factor without the need for coils, extra antennas or ultrasound transceivers. Third, it is intelligent. Cota works in a similar way to Wi-Fi, where you can chose which devices receive power and which do not, as well as to prioritize the power delivery to different devices based on use. And finally, Cota is easy to install since it powers devices in all directions.
WW: What is Ossia’s vision for the future of wireless charging? Does the Cota technology have applications in other use cases, such as for electric cars or other such technologies?
Hussain: Cota at this time is designed to power small devices at home, office, public locations and transportation such as cars and planes. We see also different vertical markets that can take advantage of Cota such as manufacturing, retail and medical applications to name a few.