Wireless charging – the business opportunities

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In an increasingly mobile world, access to two items are critical for business: connectivity and power.  Increased mobile data bundles and access to almost ubiquitous Wi-Fi have broadly resolved the connectivity issues, but maintaining power, especially on smartphones, remains an issue.

Why do we need wireless charging?

Mobility is a central part of the work environment today.  We have become dependent on several devices to keep us connected - from smartphones to tablets and laptops – all of which require power.  Poor battery life is typically the most cited frustration for smartphone and laptop users.  

Whilst there have been improvements in battery management by smartphones and tablets, these have been largely negated by increasingly power-hungry devices that carry out more and more tasks that business people rely on. Wireless charging has the potential to transform reliance on plug sockets, enabling smartphones and laptops to be constantly topped up with power in almost any location.

Blocks along the path

Wireless charging technology first made its way into mobile phones in 2013, yet it is still far from an accepted technology.  Last year Apple announced that it would create a new wireless charger that was capable of charging three devices at once. Almost a year later it has still not been launched.  The fact that a company as large as Apple is finding it challenging demonstrates the extent of the technical demands that wireless power places on consumer electronics manufacturers.

The primary limitation of wireless charging technology today is that every wireless charger needs its own unique power supply.  A user is faced with the dilemma of carrying a specific wireless charging device or simply carrying a wired charger.  Why would people bother with wireless in these circumstances?  This is further exacerbated by the need to accurately line up devices to ensure charging takes place.  These issues have limited the appeal of wireless charging, which is disappointing because the technology could be revolutionary.  

How wireless charging could be

A more visionary future for wireless charging would be the availability of power to any device, from any surface.  Users would just place a device anywhere on a surface to immediately start wireless charging.  Surfaces could include desks, tables and even surfaces in coffee shops or shared meeting spaces.

This vision of a truly wireless charging solution is not only more flexible than today’s commercial products, it could deliver a significant competitive advantage to businesses.  Coffee shops that embed wireless charging surfaces could offer a competitive differentiation that could be commercialised.  Office’s would be more flexible as employees would not be tied to distance from a plug for a workspace.  Overall, businesses would be more productive as a lack of available power would never be an issue.

A vision of the future

Power management will become an increasingly important issue for businesses. Today there are limits on the reach of electric vehicles due to the need for a physical charger within a close vicinity and this is also true of many other devices.  From not needing to position point of sale screens in retail outlets close to power, to adding flexibility to factories by removing the need for wired power, wireless power could transform the way businesses conduct tasks by removing the limitation of cables and plugs.  If the future of communications was once wireless, this could be equally true today for power.

Nedko Ivanov is CEO of Metaboards