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RF and PA chips

Ossia aims to leapfrog leaders in wireless charging

Like many areas of technology, wireless charging is going through simultaneous waves of consolidation and expansion. In core application areas, like smartphone charging, competing approaches are starting to come together in a unified whole, which will help achieve de facto standards. However, other groups are introducing new techniques which address other applications, such as electric cars, or enhance the capabilities for mobile devices.

The past couple of years have seen device charging efforts largely coalesce around three groups. The Wireless Power Consortium’s Qi is the best established technology, but its magnetic induction approach is less flexible than the magnetic resonance systems adopted by newer specifications. This was pioneered in the mass market by the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) with its Rezence spec. The Power Matters Alliance (PMA) has used induction techniques too, but recently has worked on multimode systems too.

The latter two groups agreed to merge in June, potentially leaving Qi isolated, and they have now announced their new brand, the AirFuel Alliance. AirFuel has a combined membership of 195.

Despite their combined weight, they still have limited penetration of commercial products compared to Qi, and so are keeping their options open, promising to support multimode platforms for both inductive and resonant approaches to close-coupled charging.

In this way, by adopting multimode platforms, AirFuel hopes to counter the installed base of Qi, and perhaps tempt that group towards rapprochement (they already share some board members, such as Qualcomm). Last month, it hosted the world’s first joint inductive and resonant plugfest, in which 14 companies with 40 devices participated.

The future, though, may lie in the uncoupled approach, which does not require the devices to and charging platforms to be in close proximity. The PMA already has an uncoupled working group and hopes to introduce results from that into AirFuel in future. It is working on non-magnetic technologies including RF, ultrasound and laser that deliver power at a distance with complete mobility.

Ossia is a start-up which is already ahead of the game on long distance, remote wireless charging. Last week, it announced an over-the-air charging chipset with a range of 30 feet, based on its Cota technology, and with transmitter and receiver chips developed with Si-Ware.

This is the longest range ever seen for commercial device charging, claims the firm, with no proximity, touch or fixed location required. The chips will sample in volume in the first quarter of 2016 and will target mobile devices, wearables and IoT gadgets. Smart antenna technology enables the signal to be routed around obstacles and devices can be charged from inside a bag or pocket.

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