- Wireless charging standards provide needed interoperability and safety, but are slow to advance innovation.
- Innovation is happening in the form of proprietary extensions of these standards by companies like NuCurrent and Apple.
- Proprietary extensions to Qi, NFC and AirFuel will bring wireless charging to more product categories, improving user experiences and making wireless charging a “must-have” feature for devices.
About three years ago, a major inflection point happened in the wireless power industry. Apple – which has a dominant market share of smartphones in the US and other countries – announced that its phones would charge wirelessly using the Wireless Power Consortium’s Qi Standard. This was a big moment for the industry, as it brought together all the major players on a single standard, offering the benefits of interoperability and safety on a global scale.
That said, global technology standards and the pursuit of game-changing innovation are often at odds with one another. And so, another inflection point is emerging, as elite wireless charging innovators like Apple and NuCurrent are developing proprietary extensions to wireless charging standards like Qi, NFC, and AirFuel. This article will examine a few of these and highlight their implications.
Power And Data Using NFC
NFC is the newest entrant into the wireless power standards game, and its potential is massive. With an installed base of billions of devices, NFC traditionally has been used as a communications platform, but earlier this year its standards body – the NFC Forum – turned on a small amount of power transfer (~0.5 watts received) as part of the protocol.
This innovation opens up opportunities for wireless charging in a variety of small, space-constrained devices like smartwatches, fitness bands, smartglasses, and styluses. Some of the initial products rolling out with this method of wireless power transfer include Samsung’s Galaxy Fit and Huawei X Gentle Monster Smartglasses.
But for this technology to really take off, the amount of power received needs to increase, while keeping NFC’s data transfer rates in the 106 – 848 kb/s range.
NuCurrent – a US-based wireless charging technology developer with over 125 patents – has created a proprietary NFC extension that enables up to 5 watts of power received while driving data transfer rates at 106 kb/s and up. The chart below shows the power/data ranges that are available using NuCurrent’s extension.