Wireless chargers need industry standard

The market for mobile power devices is set to boom over the next five years, though problems remain over interoperability.

There are already wireless devices available for charging handheld devices, but IMS Research says that this will increase rapidly over the coming years.

The global market for components and accessories is set to rise 85.5 percent per year, eventually growing to $4.5 billion in 2016.  While the market only reached $100 million in 2010, the explosion in smartphones is expected to push demand for wireless charging devices.

One of the main stumbling blocks has been that the various technologies available are not compatible with each other.  This has meant that companies such as Palm and Powermat, which both use inductive charging, are not able to offer use to a wide range of products, says IMS research manager Jason de Preaux.

The Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) has proposed standards, with the ‘Qi’ certification starting to crop up in products.

But dePreaux believes that if interoperability is not widespread it will be self defeating for the industry in the long-term.  He says that “industry alliances” will be crucial to achieving the forecast in heavy growth.

“In the case of wireless power, the establishment of a standard is a vital step to mass adoption,” he told TechEye.

I think standards will ultimately be decided by the market place and which products and technologies have the most success in terms of consumer acceptance.

“Having said that, the WPC is playing an important role in bringing together companies all across the value chain to speed up uptake.”

Some expect further disruptions, specifically with the introduction of another form of wireless charging.  Firms such as Qualcomm and Witricity are looking at magnetic resonance chargers. These allow devices to work at greater distances from the actual charger, while Powermat and others need a closer proximity to the actual charging unit.

While such products are still going through testing they will add confusion to the market.  But dePreaux told us that it’ll be a while before this becomes a problem.

“It will likely be at least a year, if not longer, before any products are commercially available that use magnetic resonance,” he said speaking to TechEye.

“It is too early to say whether the different players in this space will all agree to a certain standard, but the Consumer Electronics Association, is currently working on a standard for ‘Highly Resonant Magnetic Induction’, so it seems likely there will be some agreement at interoperability for this technique.”

The two variants of the technology can both stake a claim in the market, dePreaux tells us, but again it comes down to interoperability to ensure viable products.

“Tightly coupled techniques are already in the market and thus have the advantage of a head start,” he explained.

“Though it might be possible for the two technologies to coexist, I don’t see this happening if separate components need to be used, as this would likely increase the cost past a point where OEMs would be interested.”