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CES: Powermat puts wireless charging more places

The third generation of Powermat's wireless charging mat (on show at CES this week) is the thinnest ever - less than half the size of the current mat. That's doesn't just mean it takes up less space (and is easier to carry when you travel).
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The third generation of Powermat's wireless charging mat (on show at CES this week) is the thinnest ever - less than half the size of the current mat. That's doesn't just mean it takes up less space (and is easier to carry when you travel). It also means the charging technology is thin and small enough to put inside a car, in a desk or lamp - even in a fridge.

GM and Powermat have signed a deal to build a Powermat charging mat into the central console of the electric Chevrolet Volt and other US cars; the same charging system could be in some Ford, Saab or Vauxhall models by the end of this year. The Powermat charger doesn't charge the car; just any Powermat-enabled devices you put down on it, so you can charge your phone without fiddling around plugging it in to a cable.

Charging your phone in the car wirelessly; what the Powermat cubby will look like in the Volt

Powermat has done another deal with Teknion, a major supplier of office furniture to build the charging system into desks and other furniture - we saw it in the base of a lamp (which makes sense because you already have to plug the lamp in). This uses a small charging device Powermat calls a 'grommet' that's easy to add to existing surfaces. A deal with Haier will put wireless charging into appliances like refrigerators, giving you another place to put your phone down to charge. Arconas, one of the companies that puts phone charging points in airports, is going to add Powermat charging surfaces to its charging stations.

That's all very well once you have a Powermat-enabled case or replacement back on your device so it charges on the surface. Powermat has a new range of cases in various colours, and it's coming out with a mat that it says will charge devices with cases and adapters for other wireless charging systems. That's part of the agreement it's signed with QUALCOMM to collaborate on building wireless charging directly into phones, and using a combination of QUALCOMM's WiPower and the Powermat system with a dual receiver that handles both tightly and loosely coupled wireless charging.

The fact that Powermat has this many agreements and partners means that the new, slimmer charging mat, the colourful cases and the upcoming laptop charging mat it's showing off this week are starting to look like less like just another wireless charging gadget and more like something that could become standard - although other systems like eCoupled are showing off their own advances too.

Mary Branscombe

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