Dialogue with WPC Chairman about wireless charging
It will be helpful to know wireless charging better through the dialogue with WPC (Wireless Power Consortium) Chairman.
Emcee: Qi standard above 5W has the fragmentation problem, and various mobile phone manufacturers have launched their own proprietary extensions/agreements. Is this fragmentation problem currently unsolvable?
Menno：This "fragmentation" situation as you refer to it, will likely resolve itself. We believe there are 2 two trends work against fragmentation:
(1) Consumers expect that their phone will charge everywhere. They also expect that their phone will fast-charge everywhere. This drives phone manufacturers as well as charger-manufacturers to support standardized fast charging.
(2) Keeping wireless charging safe is more challenging when the power levels go up. Above 5 Watt, it’s increasingly important to make sure that phones are charged by properly implemented (safe) chargers. That drives phone manufacturers to support standardized fast charging when they increase the power level to 10-15 W. The authentication feature that will be introduced by the Wireless Power Consortium in version 1.3 of the Qi Specification makes the standardized fast charging solution very attractive.
Emcee: What will be the major feature updates for Qi?
Menno：The future of wireless charging will include more power, and will add the additional safety features needed to keep products safe when charging wirelessly above 5 Watt.
Emcee: As a consumer, I would like to know when do you think Qi will be like Wi-Fi: available almost anywhere and anytime?
Menno：It's hard to predict when Qi will reach the point of ubiquity that Wi-Fi has achieved. It depends in the percentage of people that have a Qi capable phone. Today that percentage is still low.
Qi is still a feature seen mostly in high-end smart phones, but we expect to see this feature start to appear in mid-range phones. When the percentage of people that can use wireless chargers has grown, the business case for deploying wireless chargers will improve and we will see more places that offer wireless charging. Today, the home and office are the locations where Qi is used most, followed by in automobiles. There are almost a hundred different models of cars that have Qi wireless chargers installed. It will be a natural shift to more charging locations, from office building, meeting rooms to public spaces such as hotels, restaurants and transportation depots. We already see a strong indication of this trend throughout Europe where there are thousands of installations at locations in large urban areas.
Emcee: For mobile phone to use wireless charging, charging distance and power are the two major bottlenecks of using Qi. When can this problem be solved?
Menno：The power levels are increasing gradually. That is simply a matter of time. The first wireless chargers delivered 2.5W. Now all chargers deliver at least 5W, many deliver 7.5W, and some deliver up to 15W. The number of 15W chargers will grow and then the first 20W chargers will appear.
Power over distance or through the air is a completely different matter. It will never be possible to charge all phones in a house by installing a single charger that delivers power over many meters through the air, like one Wi-Fi base station delivering Internet for the whole house. The problem is that transmitting power through the air is very inefficient. You need to transmit huge amounts of power (hundreds of watts) to deliver 5W over just 1 meter! And that makes it unsafe as well as inefficient. Power through the air certainly is possible, but only at very low power levels (microwatts). It will never be enough to charge a phone and we will only continue to see this exist in token, one-time proof of concept live demos and not in commercial application because of the safety and energy inefficiencies I mentioned.
Emcee: WPC has made a lot of efforts in making the wireless charging safe. But for consumers they seem to care more about charging speed and distance. Each (WPC and consumer) focuses on a different aspect: safety and performance. The former is conservative, the latter is more aggressive. How to balance the two different needs?
Menno：From the WPC standpoint, there is no conflict. Consumers also want safe products. Who wants to buy a product that can burn down your house?
Our priorities are:
(1) consumer safety (no burns or fire or electric shock)
(2) product safety (no damage to phones)
(3) compatibility (all phones must charge on all chargers)
All three of these are key elements to helping ensure quality. Manufacturers of products can focus their attention on differentiating their products with charging speed, product cost, and design. But, fundamentally, they have to make sure their products meet our three priorities.
Emcee: People think AirFuel is a competitor of WPC. What’s your view of AirFuel? Is it possible that WPC and Air-Fuel, the two biggest wireless charging alliances, will merge some day?
Menno：We - and the mobile device ecosystem- don’t see Airfuel as a competitor any longer. Competition of standards has ended in the market, between these two approaches. It was the market that decided this early last year and essentially, the manufacturers chose which standard they implement in their products and they are free to include any standard they like Qi prevailed. Therefore, the WPC doesn’t see the need to merge with the AirFuel alliance.
Emcee: What are the technology trends for wireless charging in the next couple of years?
Menno：There will be a couple trends in the coming years --- a gradual increase in power and more sophisticated safety measures.
Emcee: For mobile phone charging, do you see the continuous improvement of wired fast charging technology has an impact (or any threat) on the wireless charging market?
Menno：Wireless charging and wired charging are used in different circumstances. Wireless charging is about convenience. Using one hand to place the phone on the charger on your desk, in your car, or bedside. Pick it up, put it down again, without inserting a connector, is a better experience. On the other hand, if your battery is low, and you are in a hurry to charge your battery, a wired charger can be more convenient. The concern that is being discussed by government entities is how to achieve a universal wired charger and it will be interesting to see how that is addressed. The reality is with Qi wireless charging, we now have a universal wireless charging method already and the backward compatibility of the Qi standard guarantees this.
Up until now, we have not seen a threat nor do we expect one in the future. Most people use and will continue to use both methods depending on the circumstances.
Emcee: At last year’s Apple event, it was said that “the future is wireless”. What’s your interpretation of this sentence? Do you think wireless charging will replace the wired charging some day?
Menno：Wireless really is the future and I believe that most would agree with that. But wires have advantages too, so wires will not disappear anytime soon quickly. It’s the same as with Wi-Fi. If you want really fast Internet, a wired connection is the solution. But most people now don’t bother any more. Wi-Fi is fast enough for most applications and more convenient.