Wire-free power

Wireless power is the next step towards a truly cable-free future, and the tech companies have not been slow to pick up on its potential, with two companies on either side of the Atlantic coming up with their own solutions to this dilemma.

This week PC Advisor reported on Splashpower, a UK company based in Cambridge, which has developed a module which can be placed in mobile devices and will allow them to charge by simply being placed near a recharge pad, while US startup company, MobileWise Inc., is working on a similar solution to actually power devices.

MobileWise is working with Acer and others to ship (early next year) a pad with a conductive surface capable of powering compatible computing devices as efficiently as if they were plugged into an electrical outlet by simply resting them on top of it. It believes this solution will finally do away with power cables altogether by offering wireless electrical power and charging, which may enable mobile device users to finally to cut the cord.

An early design of the technology resembles a thick rubber place mat. Metal “connectivity points” span the pad’s surface and deliver power to the charging contacts on a compatible notebook, mobile phone, or other device that is laid on the surface. A single pad can power or recharge various compatible devices at once, accommodating as many as will fit on the pad, according to company representatives. Each unit will contain the intelligence to identify itself and its specifications to the pad. The largest of the first pads is limited to 240W of output.

Power potential

The technology’s potential uses are diverse, said Andy Goren, the company’s chief executive officer. One obvious benefit is that a pad, which has a single power cord that plugs into the wall, could replace the multitude of power supplies required for individual devices that fit on its surface.

“All these different wires are getting replaced all the time by wireless technologies. The last problem that has remained is with the power supply,” Goren said. The concept was devised by company founders, who include former executives of Palm and Motorola.

PC and handheld device maker Acer has committed to releasing a number of “next-generation” mobile computing devices in the first half of 2003 that will ship with a wire-free power supply based on MobileWise’s technology, said Arif Maskatia, Acer’s chief technology officer. He wouldn’t say which devices will first support electricity pads. However, this week’s demonstration featured Acer’s soon-to-be-released TravelMate Tablet PC.

Samsung Electronics is also partnering with MobileWise to use the technology in future products. The pads are expected cost less than US$200 (