An industry group is developing a standard for wireless charging of devices like digital cameras and cell phones, and expects to complete its technical specification within six months. The spec, when released, will allow manufacturers to release compatible wireless charging stations that will work with a range of devices, including a $30 iPhone sleeve.
Wireless charging uses a mat or other inductive surface that plugs into a wall outlet to automatically recharge any device that's placed near it. This would allow for more convenient recharging, and eliminate the tangle of charger cables and proliferation of "wall-wart" AC-DC power supplies familiar to all owners of multiple portable devices.
The Wireless Power Consortium - an industry group made up of 27 manufacturers such as Nokia, Research In Motion, Philips, Sanyo, Samsung Electronics, Energizer and Hewlett-Packard, Texas Instruments and Fulton Innovation - plans to complete its standard before the middle of the year, according to Menno Treffers, a Philips executive who serves as chairman of the consortium. If it's not ready by then, he said, "I will eat my hat," speaking to a group of vendors at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Friday in a report carried by the IDG News Service
Wireless charging technology uses magnetic induction to transfer power from metal coils built into the mat to similar coils in the device to be charged when they are placed close to each other. According to the emerging standard, mats will be able to deliver up to 5 watts of power, which should be enough to charge most cameras and phones. A separate standard will be developed for larger devices, such as laptops. "We want to start on that as soon as possible, but for now we don't want to dilute our engineering efforts," Treffers said.
There are several wireless chargers currently available, like the Wii Energizer charger and the Powermat charging station
that works with many phones and portable devices. The standard will allow many more devices to be released for general use, and vendors are holding off on developing new products for the time being. "We're done for now until the standard is complete," said Serge Traylor, an executive at Energizer. After the standard is complete, he said, Energizer will release a compatible mat for charging one or two devices for about $100, and charging sleeves for iPhone and Blackberry devices that will cost $30 to $40.
image via the Wireless Power Consortium