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Wireless power, charging technology may unplug Apple's iPhone

post #1 of 26
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A Michigan company has set its sights on promoting wireless power, and suggests the technology could quickly find its way into devices like the iPhone.

The patented technology isn't entirely new; many household devices from the Philips Sonicare toothbrush to the Amway eSpring water purifier already use inductive coupling to recharge their batteries or supply direct power without any metal-on-metal contact.

What is new is the idea of setting an industry standard for wireless recharging, a concept that Fulton Innovations calls eCoupled Technology. The company compares the concept with standardized wireless networking, which has been codified under the WiFi brand to allow different hardware makers to develop interoperable devices.

With its eCoupled Technology, which racked up 20 new patents granted in 2007, multiple devices could use the same recharging station, cleaning up the mess of different cables and power adapters used by different mobile phones, MP3 players, power tools, and other devices.

Inductive coupling bridges the gap between the recharging station and a device placed on it using a magnetic field that transfers power between coils in each. Most recharging stations, such as those used by the iPod and iPhone, have direct metal contacts to transfer electrical power to their internal batteries.

The advantage to eCoupled Technology is simplicity and interoperability. The drawback is that it's less efficient and only supplies electrical power. Apple's Dock connector cables not only deliver electrical power, but also transmit audio and video output and synchronize data and media files using standard USB signals.

The technology to wirelessly synchronize and output digital data over WiFi isn't quite practical yet. As noted in the article Exploring Time Capsule: theoretical speed vs practical throughput, 802.11b/g WiFi transmits data around 3 MB/sec in ideal conditions, while USB can sync over a wire at least ten times faster, at 30MB/sec or greater.

Nonstop wireless data transmissions such as a synchronizing large media files also tax the batteries of mobile devices. Paired with the slower wireless recharging of inductive coupling, the idea of living entirely without wires still appears to be a few years out.

However, eCoupling should make progress as WiFi and battery technologies also improve. For other devices without any need data synchronization, the new technology offers a more immediate potential to greatly simplify the number of unique battery chargers consumers will need to recharge their various wireless tools and other devices.

Additionally, the inclusion of eCoupling technology in mobile devices could open up the potential for wireless public recharging stations, even for devices that also use wired connections like Apple's Dock connector-equipped mobile devices.

Adding support for inductive charging is relatively low, Dave Baarman, Fulton's director of advanced technologies, recently told the The Grand Rapids Press. It only requires a charging coil about the size of a quarter, but thinner, and the supporting circuits and software. That additional expense could be made up for in lower warranty costs related to worn, corroded, or broken contacts on existing cables and connectors.

Fulton lists a number of partners hoping to apply the new technology, including German tool maker Bosch and office furniture maker Herman Miller, and notes some companies are already offering products that use it, including PC maker Lenovo.

Baarman said that other partners' names aren't being disclosed due to confidentiality agreements, although he recently demonstrated prototypes of devices using wireless charging ranging from a George Foreman Grill to Apple's iPhone.

Apple does not comment on unannounced products.
post #2 of 26
Regarding wireless syncing: that's why many of the next generation integrated circuits include USBOTG. The desktop hardware simply needs to have an adapter plugged into it's USB port or Express slot.

Putting aside the iPhone/iPod applications for a minute, I would love to see the laptops get charged like this using a docking pad, and also connect to them wirelessly for network, graphics, USB, Firewire, audio using the same 'docking' pad.
post #3 of 26
Exist now. They're called wall plugs. ;-)

Seriously, the idea of having enough distributed inductive coils planted around your average public spot with enough juice to run and charge a laptop is a bit out there. On the plus side you could likely heat up that metal commuter mug at the same time at SBUX as you work...

No junior, don't sit on the... OOPS!
post #4 of 26
I guess i understand why people are always hyped up about this.

Summary:
1) take longer to charge/sync (USB cables are 10x faster than bluetooth, and induction is slower than direct cable too)
2) waste electricity / bad for environment (induction is less effecient transfer, wifi uses more power to transmit data than wire)
3) still tethered (especially the wireless power stuff since it only works on very small distances)

Now just looking at #3, wtf is the point then? I guess if you are in a highly corrosive or water environment then you don't have to worry about cleaning metal contacts. But i know my house is not such an environment.

The tech is cool, and I await the day that this stuff makes sense to use.
post #5 of 26
Neat, gee-whiz technology, but I think it has limited niche appeal. Of course, this is useful where electric power is used near water, because of the perceived safety advantage. Most modern building codes require GFCI's in bathrooms and kitchens which render bare copper wires as safe as wireless power.

Wireless power from a distance would be game-changing!

Also, it's funny how the benefit of being able to charge multiple handheld devices simultaneously on a single pad is being touted as the trend started with the iPhone is to consolidate multiple devices into one. Wireless charging that requires close contact may be a technology whose time has past.
post #6 of 26
I imagine this technology would be very beneficial for the keyboard and mouse. As far as being "eco-friendly", it would definitely cut down on the amount of batteries that are thrown away. I know you can use rechargeable, but I'm pretty sure that group is a minority. (Although I wouldn't argue that to be true for the members of this forum).
post #7 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Axcess99 View Post

I guess i understand why people are always hyped up about this.

Summary:
1) take longer to charge/sync (USB cables are 10x faster than bluetooth, and induction is slower than direct cable too)
2) waste electricity / bad for environment (induction is less effecient transfer, wifi uses more power to transmit data than wire)
3) still tethered (especially the wireless power stuff since it only works on very small distances)

Now just looking at #3, wtf is the point then? I guess if you are in a highly corrosive or water environment then you don't have to worry about cleaning metal contacts. But i know my house is not such an environment.

The tech is cool, and I await the day that this stuff makes sense to use.

I agree 100%. The cool factor would be quickly overwhelmed by the drawbacks.
Standardization makes sense, but they will have to find a way to increase efficiency for me to ever want this to catch on. I don't know if that is in the cards/physics.

I guess with smaller devices like phones and such, the waste is less apparent, but I imagine with laptops and bigger things that could be a lot of electricity wasted...
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post #8 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by HyteProsector View Post

I imagine this technology would be very beneficial for the keyboard and mouse. As far as being "eco-friendly", it would definitely cut down on the amount of batteries that are thrown away. I know you can use rechargeable, but I'm pretty sure that group is a minority. (Although I wouldn't argue that to be true for the members of this forum).

Good point. I hadn't thought about that use...
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post #9 of 26
While this story is interesting, your labeling it with "iPhone" in the caption is shameless, it really has nothing to do specifically with the iPhone.
post #10 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Outsider View Post

Regarding wireless syncing: that's why many of the next generation integrated circuits include USBOTG. The desktop hardware simply needs to have an adapter plugged into it's USB port or Express slot.

How about Bluetooth ? 2+EDR is pretty good and fast
post #11 of 26
think of this 15 years from now.. electric cars that charge in your driveway wirelessly, and in big cities, charge while your driving via street car lines, or wireless hubs at stoplights. cool.
post #12 of 26
Apple may in the future utilize a technology to in which brain waves will be used in order to illicit commands replacing the need for a keyboard and mouse. Now, such technology is not new but used around the world by hypnotists and magicians such as David Blaine and Criss Angel among others. This emerging technology will revolutionize the way computers are used while freeing up the hands to do other activities, which will be very useful especially for those viewing content such as pornography, new Apple products or the Stevenote online.

There are drawbacks and certain individuals (such as longtime Windows users) do not have sufficient brain wave activity to initiate the mental commands and will have to resort to using more traditional methods. A new input tablet which can be used with crayons is being considered for such individuals. Bill Gates has demoed an early prototype and is said to be quite pleased with it.

It is noted that all tinfoil hats will have to be removed in order for these new features to work so many Mac Security analysts will not be able to access this new feature.

Apple, of course, does not comment on future products. We did, however, read their minds and received a very positive affirmation of this coming trend.
post #13 of 26
i agree that this technology is not efficient in its current form, but as for data transfer speeds, i only sync when i'm charging my iphone, and i charge my iphone for an hour or two at least. 3 mb/sec is plenty of speed to sync in that time.
post #14 of 26
To me, the fact that it's SOOOOO much less efficient makes it still only a concept. Everything else is moving towards higher efficiency, the processors, the displays, our light bulbs... we're trying to make ourselves more "eco-friendly" and now we're getting rid of the efficiency of the cable so that when we set our device down, we don't have to plug it in. big whoop.

How about this: just standardize on USB or Firewire for devices. then you still don't have to "look" for the "right" charger, they're all the same. And you don't lose the efficiency by going to inductive charging.
post #15 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by TranceMist View Post

While this story is interesting, your labeling it with "iPhone" in the caption is shameless, it really has nothing to do specifically with the iPhone.

Agreed. This is a non-story.

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post #16 of 26
I'm suprised no one has mentioned UWB technology instead of bluetooth.
Ultra Wideband could be used as the next bluetooth, and i think i heard of it being used somewhere for a wireless USB hub, though I'm not sure. The speed atvantages UWB over Bluetooth would be like USB 1.1 over USB 2.0. It would have approximately the same range as bluetooth does.
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post #17 of 26
I have this hideous spot in my kitchen where all the devices I use on a regular basis go to charge (two cell phones, two bluetooth headsets, three iPods). That's seven "wall warts', two power strips (because the wall warts are always designed in such a way that they won't all fit on whatever power strip you have), and tons of wires. No matter what I do it always looks ugly and untidy, and it's a pain to unplug/replug everything all the time.
Contrast that with a single nice pad where you just drop your rechargeable devices when you get home and pick them up in the morning. No ugly wires. No fumbling looking for the connector in the dark. No docking stations. Who cares if it takes 6 hours to recharge instead of 2. I can't wait for this technology to become standardized.
post #18 of 26
I would much prefer the MobileWise system that has a plate with a grid of electrical contacts. Just drop your device on top and you get conductive charging rather than inductive as with this system. Much more efficient. Just what would be the advantage of eCoupling? "Simplicity and interoperability?" The MobileWise design is even simpler and just as interoperable if devices are designed for it. Devices have to be redesigned to use this system anyway.
post #19 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kolchak View Post

I would much prefer the MobileWise system that has a plate with a grid of electrical contacts. Just drop your device on top and you get conductive charging rather than inductive as with this system. Much more efficient. Just what would be the advantage of eCoupling? "Simplicity and interoperability?" The MobileWise design is even simpler and just as interoperable if devices are designed for it. Devices have to be redesigned to use this system anyway.



After some google searching all I found were some articles circa 2002 and one link that was posted in a discussion forum.

http://www.mobilewise.com/

Seems like MobileWise never made it out of 2002..

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post #20 of 26
eCoupling wants a universal system for most devices -- but they want to own it! That'll never happen. If device manufacturers ever agree to share a universal coupling, it'll be license free. That's why USB beat out Firewire, etc. Sounds to me that they simply want to get free press by using the all important key word in a press release: iPhone. They may also want to drive investment in them by creating speculation. (NO! They wouldn't do that... that's unethical!)
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post #21 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Inductive coupling bridges the gap between the recharging station and a device placed on it using a magnetic field that transfers power between coils in each. Most recharging stations, such as those used by the iPod and iPhone, have direct metal contacts to transfer electrical power to their internal batteries.

Apple does not comment on unannounced products
.

Magnetic? Maybe I'm wrong but I can't imagine a magnetic field is a good thing to have running through your iPhone, course I may be wrong.
post #22 of 26
Just think. One day you could set your laptop on a table in Starbucks and just your laptop sitting there could get power from the table plugged into the wall.
post #23 of 26
I think it would be great if this kind of tech could be used even for tethered devices. Just now, you have a single or double socket and if you run out, you have to add multiple extensions. What if instead of that design, you just had a large plate and plugs were simply flat and held on by magnets.

I think the same thing could be done for peripherals. People are forever complaining about the lack of display ports or USB ports. If there was a combined power + data plate where peripherals connected via magnets and data signals were separated in the same way that multiple signals down say a single ethernet or USB cable are separated, it would sort all sorts of issues.

No more fumbling about the back of an iMac, just stick it on the back plate somewhere. Need multiple displays on a Mini, just stick them on. Wireless power and data on everything is better but it'll only be practical when it's more efficient. So that instead of sending data+power in all directions, there's a way to broadcast a signal to find devices and then fire a laser-like beam directly to the device's vicinity and track it.
post #24 of 26
It's remarkable how an ignorant article can spawn such a bunch of ignorant replies - when the article itself contains a pointer to the company's description of the technology.

For the record: The comparison to inductive chargers for toothbrushes is not valid. That does, indeed, use a magnetic field, works only over very short distances, and is inefficient. The technology here uses resonant circuits and an electromagnetic field. It's a near-field technology - more similar to radio than to magnetic coupling. (Radio is a far-field technology, so that analogy isn't very close either.) There's a good writeup of all this stuff in Wikipedia.

A near-field transmission does not have a large magnetic component. The company's Q&A claims that they tested a floppy between a transmitter and a receiver sending 1000 watts between them and the floppy was unaffected.

Near-field power transmission can be quite efficient. eCoupled claims 98%. I have no way to judge if this is the case, but it seems possible. I couldn't find any claims about distances, but the near field extends out to a good part of the wavelength of the signal being used, which could be several feet.

As eCoupled implements the technology, they claim an embedded data channel good for 1.1 Mbps. Not world-beating, but plenty for many uses.

This is an old but long-neglected technology that's seen a recent re-emergence of interest. A group at MIT showed off some similar technology a couple of months back. (I think their unique addition to the argument was an algorithm to do detailed calculation and optimization of various parameters.)

I have nothing to do with eCoupled and can't say if their implementation is better than others - or even whether it really works. But they aren't claiming any magical properties, and what they are claiming looks well thought out. If you've tried it and found it wanting - go ahead and criticize. But being dismissive without the most basic understanding of what's possible, and what's being done ... that's just crap.

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post #25 of 26
Didn't Apple already patent something to this effect? Didn't this site even report on it?
post #26 of 26
This technology is nowhere near being new. It has long been predicted that such technology will be adopted by apple, bearing in mind the technology barely weighs (or costs) anything.

I have wireless recharging technology inside my toothbrush, I just have to rest it on the platform.

Oh and netboy.. that's my favorite response in the thread hehe.
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