Wireless charging has been slow to take off, but a new technology, called uBeam, could change that.
It involves changing electricity into audio, which is then sent through the air over ultrasound, and when it reaches a receiver attached to a portable electronic devices, such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop, it's converted back into electricity to charge said device.
It was invented by Meredith Perry, who explained to the New York Times that "this is the only wireless power system that allows you to be on your phone and moving around a room freely while your device is charging. It allows for a Wi-Fi-like experience of charging; with everything else you have to be in close range of a transmitter."
So essentially your device could be charging all the time as long as you're in the same room as a uBeam charger, and with no wires or physical connection it can be in your pocket or in use with no restrictions.
It's also capable of transmitting secure data, which could make it a boon to the internet of things, where devices will increasingly need to share data.
The charging stations are designed to be no more than 5mm thick, so they could potentially be attached to walls or made into decorative art without looking out of place.
Get ready for a new household name
Perry aims to have uBeam products on shelves within the next two years and envisages flooding the market with them, so that as well as selling them to consumers they'll be found in coffee shops, hotels and offices.
Once (and if) they're everywhere, Perry points out that the need for large batteries in smartphones might be gone, as your phone could potentially be charging any time you're inside.
However it's not a perfect wireless charging solution, as the ultrasound waves can't pass through walls, so there would need to be a charger in every room of a house or office, otherwise you're still limited in where you can power your device.
There's also a question of efficiency. This wasn't brought up in the original article but one of the reasons that existing wireless chargers are so short range is so that they can charge quickly and efficiently without wasting too much energy.
It's not clear whether that will be an issue with uBeam as well, but on the whole it sounds promising and, most importantly, it apparently already works, which is always a good start.
- Wondering why wireless charging isn't everywhere yet? So are we.