Apple patents method to charge devices wirelessly using Wi-Fi router

This week, Apple was granted a patent for a method that could mean users would be able to charge their iPhones wirelessly using a Wi-Fi router.
Written by Tas Bindi, Contributor

VIDEO: Charging the iPhone over Wi-Fi? Apple patents the idea

Another patent granted to Apple could mean that users of the company's devices can one day charge them without the use of cables or charging docks -- rather, all they would require is a purpose-built Wi-Fi router.

Filed on October 23, 2015 and made public by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, Apple's patent application describes a system that harnesses the wireless signals emitted by routers to charge electronic devices.

Theoretically, the router would use dual polarisation and dual frequency antennas to physically locate devices, focus the signal there, and transfer power over a range of frequencies, including cellular (700 MHz to 2700 MHz), Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz to 5 GHz), and millimeter wave (10 GHz to 400 GHz).

Apple has not provided any clear indication that it is working on a router that could provide both gigabit Wi-Fi and power at the same time. Last year, the company reportedly abandoned its AirPort routers, which used beam steering antennas similar to what's detailed in the patent application.

In 2015, prior to Apple filing its patent application, the University of Washington had developed a way to broadcast power to remote devices using Wi-Fi.

The university's approach was to connect an antenna to a temperature sensor, place it near a Wi-Fi router, and measure the resulting voltages in the device and how long it can operate on this remote power source alone.

However, through the testing process, researchers found a problem: Wi-Fi broadcasts are not continuous. As explained in an article on MIT's Technology Review, routers tend to broadcast in bursts and so when the broadcast stops, the voltages drop and the sensor does not have enough power to work consistently.

Earlier this year, Disney Research created a method, dubbed "quasistatic cavity resonance", that would enable rooms and cabinets to "generate quasistatic magnetic fields that safely deliver kilowatts of power to mobile receivers contained nearly anywhere within".

Companies such as Energous, uBeam, and WiTricity have also demonstrated wireless charging.

Apple itself has been investigating wireless charging methods for some time, with numerous other patents having been granted to the company over the years. In 2014, the company received approval for a method that involves using wireless near-field magnetic resonance to transmit power in a computing environment.

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