What is Wireless Charging?

We have been deploying wireless charging solutions since 2013, but perhaps we should step back and take a chance to explain why we believe wireless charging is poised to change how we consume power in public! In this two-part series I will first explain how wireless charging works, and then why Chargifi’s smart solution takes it to the next level.

Why Wireless Charging?

Our founder, Dan Bladen, was inspired to redefine mobile charging after an extended trip around the world. While traveling, he was constantly searching for outlets in cafes, restaurants, and airports to keep his smartphone powered. He realized that there had to be a 21st-century solution to the problem of finding power on the go.

We knew that anything we offered to venues needed to be 10x better (to paraphrase Peter Thiel) than the current solution. Consider the outlets currently on offer in your average airport or coffee shop. There are few in number and they were probably installed to power a vacuum cleaner, not your smartphone. Wireless charging, on the other hand, offers significant key advantages including:

  • Power where users need it: at the table, not in the corner or on the floor

  • No unsightly cables: users can leave the cords at home, and venues can forget having to provide and replace charging cables constantly

  • No expensive AC power modifications required: wireless charging can be powered off of batteries or DC cabling, resulting in cheaper, safer installs than those requiring new outlets to be installed

  • Delighted customers: customers new to the technology think it’s magic; those who have seen it before come back to use it again

In short, wireless charging provided the perfect opening for us to disrupt the consumer end of the power grid. So what exactly is wireless charging, and how does it work?

What is wireless charging?

Wireless charging, broadly speaking, is the transfer of energy through the air between a transmitter and a receiver (or many). Today this is commonly achieved over short distances using a technology called electromagnetic induction, which we will focus on for the purpose of this post.

Electromagnetic induction uses magnetic fields to transmit power between electrified copper coils tuned to a specific frequency. Power can be transmitted wirelessly over a specified distance from a wireless power transmitter connected to mains voltage, to a receiver embedded in, or connected to, an electronic device, e.g a smartphone.

Practically speaking, this is achieved by embedding wireless power transmitters within or beneath tabletop surfaces. The transmitter beneath the table is connected to the venue’s mains power. If a user places a wireless-charging-enabled device above the transmitter, it will draw power from the transmitter and recharge. If their device is not enabled, they can connect a universal charging dongle to their charge port to enable wireless charging–a bit like USB WiFi dongles before WiFi was embedded directly into laptops.

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What are the major wireless charging standards?

There are currently two main standards bodies for wireless charging: the Wireless Power Consortium, and the AirFuel Alliance. Both offer similar variations on inductive charging, which can charge a single mobile device on a charging hotspot. The Wireless Power Consortium’s Qi standard has been adopted by a number of mobile handset manufacturers, is available in furniture products, and a number of vehicles for in-car charging.

Additionally, the AirFuel Alliance offers AirFuel-Resonant charging, which extends the benefits of magnetic induction through a slightly different implementation of the technology. AirFuel-Resonant is capable of charging multiple devices on a single charging transmitter, can charge through thicker surfaces, and can provide enough power to charge devices with higher power requirements, like laptops.

Chargifi’s smart deployment solution is compatible with both of these technologies, and we work with our partners to deploy the right technology for their venues.

What’s next for wireless charging?

A number of innovators are working on solutions to safely transmit power over longer distances, further delivering on the promise of a truly wireless world. While current solutions focus on short-distance, through-surface power transfer, technologists are exploring everything from lasers, to ultrasound, to radio frequencies, to transmit power throughout entire rooms much like WiFi works today.

Regardless of how this exciting technology develops, we believe the key to its success in public is a smart management solution capable of deploying, monitoring, and monetizing the provision of public power at scale. In my next post, I will talk about how Chargifi’s smart wireless charging solution adds exceptional value for venues and users alike.

Tom Gregorio - Head of Product