This question always pops into my head whenever I am roaming an airport desperately seeking a place to recharge my notebook computer and other gadgets: why is it that I can get all sorts of network "juice" via wireless means, while I have to rely on some cord to keep these darn things running?
Sure, you and I have both read and heard about wireless charging methods, but most of them still require some sort of contact point (they are inductive) and so far there has been little traction for these technologies. Until now. Cleantech market watcher Pike Research figures that 2012 will be the turning point for wireless charging devices, when the market will cross the $1 billion mark.
In the press release for the report, Pike Research Clint Wheelock said:
"The electrical cord is the one tether that has yet to be cut for most mobile users. Today's early wireless charging systems mostly use inductive charging technologies that require direct contact between the charger and the device, but research is well underway on systems that will eventually transmit power wirelessly over long distances."
It doesn't require much imagination to dream up applications for this sort of thing: you're already seeing some research and development related to electric vehicle charging, as one example. Consumer electronics gadgets -- especially mobile phones -- are also prime candidates. The delivery methods for wireless charging include everything from induction technologies, magnetic resonance, microwaves and even lasers. You might also imagination collecting power from a much more distributed "grid" than in the past. What's to keep you from having a solar or wind generation source, for example, that keeps your gadgets entirely off grid.
One start-up to follow is WiTricity, which just signed a technology collaboration deal with Toyota Motor Co. last week that could result wireless electric vehicle charging stations. Other companies working on the wireless charging challenge include Powercast, which is focused on energy harvesting; eCoupled, which is focused on inductive methods; and PowerBeam, which is using optical technologies for long-distance transmission. The Wireless Power Consortium is also likely to be a force in steering the future agenda for these technologies.