From the moment Nikola Tesla tried to erect his Wardencliffe tower on Long Island, with the intent to make a global wireless electricity system, we've tried to blast those electrons without cables. With the incessant amount of battery-powered gadgets we use every day now, wireless charging
is back in vogue, and whoever masters radio charging first will be rolling in dough pretty soon afterwards.
Radio charging can work from the longest distances of all, and even without a dedicated transmitter - it can eventually harvest the radio frequency (RF) energy that is beamed all around us by various sources. That's exactly what Energous, based in San Jose, is trying to pull off, said Marty Cooper (you know, of cell phone inventor fame) in a recent interview.
"Keeping your phone charger around is a real annoyance," according to him, and we couldn't agree more. "You won't want to take all of them off and plug them in. That's why they ought to be charging all the time... Energous is one large step closer to fulfilling its vision of bringing wire-free charging to consumers," Cooper said.
He has a vested interest in the success of Energous, as he is sitting on the board of directors, but what the company is offering now ought to pique our interest. The technology, called WattUp, is a sort of a router that can sends an RF charging signal to microchips embedded in compatible devices, and the microchips then convert the signal into DC power. You can charge up to 12 devices requiring 10 watts or less at once, though the charging speed is slower the more devices that are connected, and the further away they are from the power hub. According to Energous, at a five feet distance, four connected devices can charge as quickly as if they were plugged in. The charging schedule can be set with an app.
What about health concerns? The inventors and manufacturers of magnetic resonance, inductive and radio charging, claim that their solutions are tested, and don't interfere with living organisms in a harmful way, so your goldfish shouldn't be more exposed to waves than it already is. As far as we know, a year of living near a Wi-Fi router will net you the same radiation as a 20 minute cell phone call; it's not known precisely how much radio charging might emit, but it shouldn't be a harmful number.
In any case, we can't wait for the day to untangle ourselves from cords and power adapter bricks. Whichever technology prevails, we hope it does it soon, and we can start on making it ubiquitous, so we seamlessly charge our gizmos the minute we enter the house, the car, or at public places. There are a few other companies working on radio charging from afar, like the MIT's WiTricity
, so things are looking up for the day without cords.