Beyond gadgets: what's next for wireless power?

Wireless charging is coming to tablets and more

You can charge several devices at once and you could turn a whole drawer into a charging space, because the system uses Dynamic Harmonisation Control to give each device the right level of power. If there isn't a receiver asking for power, the charger won't send any power – so metal objects like coins and keys won't heat up if you leave them on a charging pad.

Impressive as the Power by Proxi solution is, it's hard to compete with an established standard even if you're technically better. That's especially true when the other major competition for wireless power continues to be wires – and not just the plethora of external battery packs we saw at CES (we especially like the Innergie PocketCell Duo, which can charge two iPads at once and Charge Card, a flat cable that folds up to the size of a credit card).

The amount of power you can run over a USB cable is going up (as well as the data speed, which is going to double from 5Bbps to 10Gbps for USB 3). The USB power delivery spec was finished last July as we saw a prototype system delivering the 65W it takes to charge a laptop, as well as video display and file transfer – over a standard USB 2 cable.

The USB Implementers Forum showed us an adapted ThinkPad (an elderly machine still running Vista rather than a super-fast new notebook) with a USB 3 port connected to the power circuits. We plugged in a USB cable that connected to a Lenovo monitor with a built-in dock and a second screen daisy-chained to it. The laptop display extended across all three screens, a USB drive plugged into one of the monitors opened up in Explorer and the laptop started charging.

If you want the 100W it takes to run a desktop PC, or a longer cable, you'll need a new cable rated for higher power. But once this takes off, you won't need a separate power adapter for every new laptop. With USB 3 you can have far fewer cables on your desk – of course with wireless power, you might not have any.