We've heard a lot over the years about how it won't be long before we're able to charge our mobile phones, laptops and other gadgets wirelessly. But we've seen very little in terms of actual products. However, this is about to change suddenly and extensively. That's if the in-depth analysis of cable-free power in this month's Nikkei Electronics Asia magazine is to be believed.

The three methods for charging or powering devices wirelessly - induction, radio reception and resonance - are discussed at length. It makes for an intriguing future scenario where plugs, sockets and cables are banished to the dustbin of history.

Horses for courses

Electromagnetic induction is likely to be used in charging pads similar to many existing prototypes to rapidly juice batteries in specific devices. It's the equivalent of walking to a wall socket and plugging in a phone charger.

The radio reception method, on the other hand, can provide a trickle of electrical power to equipment within about 10m. It could possibly provide enough to maintain stand-by power in phones and similar devices within range.

Most exciting, though, is the resonance method. This could end up in large chargers built into, for example, ceilings that beam power into any electrical device in a room. Examples include robots drawing wireless power from above and electric cars powered by strips of such chargers alongside a road.

Away from those longer-term visions, it seems likely that we'll be seeing domestic lighting products that draw their juice without ties late this year. And wireless charging of phones, music players and other handheld gadgets some time in 2008. Just don't blame us if we're still pondering the future of cable-free power in ten years' time, ok?