Wi-Charge wants to end smartphone battery anxiety. The company says it has developed a system of infrared beams that provides power to multiple gadgets in a room, abolishing the rush for a cable and paving the way for new types of products.
“You can now have infrared technology that charges phones without having to place it on the charging pads or using a charging cable,” Ori Mor, founder and vice president of research and development for Wi-Charge, tells Inverse. “Instead of me leaving home and all day having to manage my battery saying, ‘Oh, am I out of battery, when, when is the next time I’m going to see a charger, oh, I’m going to an airport, where can I find a power outlet…’ All of a sudden, if I just place my phone on the kitchen counter, or a coffee table or a conference room table, I get positive battery charge. That is a big change in terms of battery anxiety.”
It could finally mark the end of hunting for a charger and worrying about battery levels. While so-called “wireless charging” pads like the Qi standard found in iPhone and Android devices cut the cable, the device still needs to make contact with a pad to accept a charge. Wi-Charge’s system in its current form can can already provide three watts of power over 10 meters, enough to charge an iPhone X in four hours, and it’s capable of offering a theoretical maximum of 10 watts of power. The only requirement is the device has an unbroken line of sight with the transmitter.
At the Mobile World Congress in Los Angeles this week, Wi-Charge detailed three key developments. It’s working with Swiss company Monolicht to integrate its transmitters into light fittings, so the same panels that light up a room can also charge up phones. The company itself has also created a fake coffee shop, showing how a future cafe could provide smartphone charging for customers. It’s also partnering with ZKTeco USA to create a biometric smart lock, receiving power from a nearby Wi-Charge transmitter.
“Smart locks as well as other security cameras, sensors and other smart home devices can greatly benefit from everlasting batteries,” said Yuval Boger, chief marketing officer of Wi-Charge. “Consumers no longer need to worry about being locked out of their homes.”
Wi-Charge faces competition from companies like Ossia and Energeous, which are developing chargers that work more like Wi-fi by using radio transmissions. While this approach means the device doesn’t need to maintain a direct line of sight, Mor claims that such systems can only safely provide up to 100 milliwatts, well below the 500 milliwatts necessary to even maintain a smartphone battery’s current charge level. Wi-Charge received FDA certification last year.
“Our products are classified in the same safety level as your optical mouse or your laser printer, so there’s absolutely no usage limitation on what you can do with it, there’s no safety precaution that you need to take,” Mor says. “And in fact, you know, I’m sitting here in my office with a transmitter right above me. Believe me, if it wasn’t safe, I wouldn’t be doing it.”
The company expects products with integrated Wi-Charge modules to hit the markets as soon as next year.