Lost that power cable? Apple plots a wider reach for wireless charging

Lost that power cable? Apple plots a wider reach for wireless charging

Summary: Newly patented technology from Apple proposes the use of magnetic resonance to create a power field for charging a variety of nearby devices.


A patent granted this week to Apple could one day let users of the company's devices charge them without cables and without the need to place them on charge pads.

US patent 8,796,885, filed on 20 April 2012 and granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, describes a way of using wireless near-field magnetic resonance (NFMR) to transmit power in a computing environment.

The filing says under the system an NFMR power supply inside, say, a computer could charge any number of suitably configured devices wirelessly at a distance of up to about one metre.

"In this way, a charging region can be formed around the computer in which the peripheral device (or any other appropriately configured device) can wirelessly receive useful amounts of power from the power supply," the filing said.

However, a number of issues could affect the effectiveness of the charging: "Such factors can include, for example, the addition of other devices... that require power from the NFMR power supply, [and] obstacles interfering with the direct power channel".

Much of the patent description covers computer systems where the peripherals, such as the mouse and keyboard, are powered wirelessly from the NFMR power supply housed in the main unit.

The peripherals would each contain what Apple describes as "small form factor wireless power units...sized along the lines of a standard AAA battery".

"It should be noted however, that since small form factor wireless power units... can be of any size and shape, it is contemplated that any battery of any size or configuration can be replaced by small form factor power units."

As well as being incorporated into a desktop, the NFMR power supply could also be built into a laptop or tablet, the filing said, but it could also take other shapes.

"The NFMR power supply can take the form of a portable type unit such as a dongle that can be connected to a legacy device such as a desktop computer, thereby providing the ability to retrofit devices.

"In still other embodiments, housing or a portion of a housing used to enclose the NFMR power source can act to extend a useful range of the NFMR power supply."

Existing smartphone wireless-charging stations such as the Powermat require the device to be in contact with the unit and use inductive charging as opposed to the magnetic resonance set out in Apple's patent.

A number of companies are working on wireless charging over larger distances, including Energous Corporation, which says its WattUp technology can charge devices wirelessly at ranges of about four metres.

More on Apple

Topics: Mobility, Apple, CXO, Emerging Tech, Patents

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  • and it doubles as a personal MRI unit

    You just have to keep your hard drive in the next room :-)
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  • leave it to apple to get a Pattent for something that already eaxist

    • A patent protects the WAY

      you do something.
  • Proprietary crapple

    Will cost 2x as much with cost passed on to consumer, will cost more to fix when it breaks, will not contribute to technology standards (instead they will sue for copying).
    Sean Foley
  • Wireless electricity

    I seem to recall this technology was used in the 1890's by Nicola Tesla. Apple should sue for patent infringement.
    Koopa Troopa
    • Also used

      It's also used by all technology today. Transformer wires do not touch and they hook the entire electrical grid together. Radio communication is also "wireless power."
      Buster Friendly
    • Again. A patent

      protects HOW you do something. Apple's method is different than Tesla's. Which is different than others. One of the ways to get around a patent is to find a DIFFERENT WAY to do the same thing.
      • Chill dude

        It was a joke. But since you're trying to make it a serious discussion...
        Patents on shapes, so creative! Patents on colors, so unique!
        Since you can get patents on these things it kind of blows away your "HOW you do something" definition.
        Koopa Troopa
        • Look up trade dress

      • As described...

        Apple's "patent" adds nothing to what is already known and done. I hate the way they patent the most blindingly obvious and prior art stuff just to lock out the competition!
  • It would be interesting to know how efficient (i.e. inefficient) it is ...

    we have spent years making Power Supplies and other devices more efficient. Hope Apple has thought about how green (or non-green) this is or they could get a black eye from customers !
    • Around 70%

      It's around 70% but you really have to search for that. You mostly find advocates spinning, dodging, and lying about it. I have no idea why people do that. It's like they think reality will change if it's lied about enough. This is very basic by BS free: http://www.mouser.com/applications/wireless-charging/
      Buster Friendly
  • Talk about crap patents

    Another abuse of patents.
  • I don't get it...

    Why would Apple do this? I mean, think about it: Wireless charging means that Apple can no longer charge you $35.00 for a $3.00 charging cable.
    • It isn't for charging phones.

      That's just the myopic thinking of the blog author. This is to eliminate the need for batteries in the wireless keyboards and Mice / Trackpads Apple makes. Instead of having to replace batteries every few months, you just plop your keyboard and mouse / trackpad down in front of your computer and they get power directly. No muss, no fuss.
      • Two months?

        My keyboard batteries go for several years.
        Buster Friendly
        • Not without recharging they

          Don't. Apple devices use replaceable batteries.
          • Yes, they do

            Yes they do. If you put nimh in one, you need to use low self discharge rate ones.
            Buster Friendly
          • Nope.

            Typical bluetooth keyboard power consumption:

            Operating: 3 mA
            Stand by: 1.15 mA
            Deep stand by: 0.11 mA
            Bluetooth link: 13.5 mA

            Typical AA Alkaline battery is 1500 mAh, and you'll use two. 3000 mAh.

            Assume a typical 8 hour work day where you are typing away at your keyboard for about 1/4 that time. After work, maybe less. Let's assume in a 12 hour day, you do about 4 hours of typing.

            So, you've used 12 mAh operating. You've used you've used 2.2 mAh in deep standby. During the same time, you've used 54 mAh to keep the bluetooth connection during your typing. Total energy used for the day: 68 mAh.

            At this very conservative rate of usage, your 2 AA alkaline batteries will go dead after 43 days, or about 6 weeks.