Photo via jeffk via Flickr Creative Commons
Wireless charging has been growing in popularity the last couple years. This last Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas showed several promising companies, and there are sure to be more in January at the next show. The idea of charging devices without having to actually plug them into the wall each time is appealing to many consumers, and the market seems to be revealing this trend. Pike Research states that the wireless charging and transmission market will hit nearly $12 billion in the next 10 years. Is this a pro or con for material reduction in the electronics industry?"Applications for wireless power are diverse, ranging from mobile phones to electric vehicles to unmanned aircraft," says Pike Research president Clint Wheelock. "And in the future, wireless transmission will have the capability of sending large amounts of power to remote locations."
We've seen some very interesting uses for wireless charging, such as what eCoupled is doing for everything from laptop charging to kitchen appliances. The wireless charging technology is embedded in both devices and surfaces so that when, say, a laptop is set on a desk, it can be charged without plugging it in. Or when a blender is placed on a certain spot on the kitchen counter, it can be used without wires running to an outlet. However, eCoupled relies on manufacturers taking a shine to their technology and utilizing it in next-generation products; in addition, this doesn't mean that devices won't still come with cords and chargers for people without said-magical desktop. So it might be a very long time before we see a reduction in materials.
In other areas, though, we're actually seeing an increase in materials. For example, Powermat offers wireless charging for devices like iPhones, technology that can be used right away. But you have to buy rather pricey sleeves for each device in addition to the powermat for it to work. There are also no clear standards for interoperability, so having a laptop that can be charged wirelessly on one charger might not work with another, which to some degree defeats the work being done by companies like GreenPlug who are pushing the adoption of universal chargers.
Still, companies are rolling forward with eliminating cords from our lives. Pike Research states that "the wireless power market will reach an inflection point when it crosses the $1 billion revenue mark in 2012, and by 2020 wireless power system revenues will exceed $11.8 billion worldwide." This will be in no small part thanks to the inclusion of giants like General Motors and General Electric, in addition to smaller companies like Powermat, Pure Energy Solutions and WiTricity.
"Based on extensive primary research and market analysis, Pike Research forecasts that the two largest application categories for wireless power will be consumer electronics and industrial applications, the latter of which includes sensor networking and wireless slip rings for machinery that uses robotic arms and/or rotating joints, such as automated assembly and processing facilities and wind turbines. Other promising, albeit smaller, segments include electric vehicle charging, military applications, and mobile computing and communications devices."
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