Group to Work on Wireless Laptop-charging Specification

The Wireless Power Consortium said Monday that it will start working on a new specification for wirelessly charging laptops.

The consortium will develop a medium-power wireless charging specification with a maximum output of 120 watts, said Menno Treffers, chairman of the steering group at the Wireless Power Consortium. That should be enough for wireless charging of devices like laptops and netbooks, he said.

Wireless charging entails placing rechargeable devices on mats or pads containing transmitters that put out a charge. The devices contain coils that wirelessly receive the power.

The consortium's initial goal was to tackle charging for low-power devices, said Treffers, who is also director of standards at Koninklijke Philips Electronics. On Saturday the consortium finalized a low-power standard of up to 5 watts of power for charging devices like smartphones, Bluetooth headsets or power tools, Treffers said.

Work on the new medium-power specification will begin soon, Treffers said. He said that devices adhering to the consortium's specifications would carry the Qi certification logo.

The low-power standard took about 18 months to complete, and Treffers said the technology will initially be implemented in mats, but also could be embedded in furniture such as tables. Energizer has said it would release a mat to charge as many as two devices, for about US$100, and charging sleeves for iPhone and Blackberry devices, for $30 to $40.

Right now there are multiple wireless charging technologies, and standardization could prevent consumers from getting locked into any single technology, Treffers said.

"If we don't standardize, the volume of these products will stay.... niche. By standardizing we can [push] it into every household," Treffers said.

iSuppli is predicting the wireless charging market will grow quickly. Shipments of wireless charging products could total 3.6 million this year and grow to 234.9 million in 2014, the market research firm said in a June 30 study.

For now the low-power specification is being distributed to consortium members, and will be opened up to other companies on Aug. 30. Products can be certified through tests by independent labs.

The consortium is not working on over-the-air wireless charging as the technique is inefficient, Treffers said. There are also concerns about bodily exposure to a magnetic field. By placing a device on a pad, the magnetic field stays with the receiver, and the charging can be quick and efficient.

Some notable Wireless Power Consortium members include Energizer, Fulton Innovation, ConvenientPower, Philips, Nokia, Research in Motion, Texas Instruments, LG Electronics, Verizon and HTC.

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