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Gone are the days of plugging in your electronics and being tethered down in order to charge. As devices are evolving in technology, so is the way we power up, and the latest evolution is towards wireless charging.

Qi charging is a form of wireless charging, and these days you’ll find it in use on a variety of small personal electronics—such as smartphones—but interest is growing across other devices too. With most devices adopting Qi standards, wireless charging is likely to become a standard part of technology in the near future and the integration of new wireless charging regulated devices will change the way we charge at home, in the office and even on the go. Here, we’ll give you an overview of how it works, which companies are using it, safety-related issues and projected market growth.

SO, HOW DOES WIRELESS CHARGING WORK?

Wireless charging can come in a variety of forms across many devices.

Radio Charging

Radio charging is a way to wirelessly charge commonly seen in devices such as wireless keyboards and mice, medical devices, watches and music players. These devices are powered on small batteries and use radio waves to send and receive wireless signals. When the device is configured to the same frequency, you are able to charge.

Magnetic Resonance Charging

For larger devices that use a significant amount of power, such as a large computer, electric car or vacuum cleaner, resonance charging is used. Resonance requires a copper coil to be attached to the device needing the charge with another copper coil attached to a source of power. The charging occurs when both copper coils are configured to a common electromagnetic frequency, thus charging from the power source over a short distance.

Inductive Charging

Qi is a form of inductive wireless charging. It occurs when energy is transferred from a charger to a receiver by way of electromagnetic induction. The charger uses an induction coil to create an electromagnetic field, which the receiver coil in the phone—or other device—simply converts back into electricity to feed the battery. The two coils typically need to be touching, with the receiver on top of the charger (or vice versa). Though this is considered by many to be cutting-edge technology, rechargeable toothbrushes and shavers have actually been using this kind of inductive charging since the 1990s. And Qi, a Chinese word that translates to “vital energy,” is today’s worldwide wireless charging standard. It’s able to provide from 5 to 15 watts of power—making it perfect for smaller electronics, like smartphones.

Check out below all of your inductive Qi options Byrne can provide:

WHO’S ON BOARD?

The mobile phone market remains the dominant force in overall use, with Samsung’s Galaxy smartphone series leading the pack. Technically speaking, these phones, starting with the S7 model, come equipped with dual-mode Qi, meaning the device is compatible with the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) standards as well as the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) standards, so they will be able to charge with any wireless receiver. Although Apple didn’t release wireless charging compatible devices until 2017, iPhones now come Qi equipped starting from iPhone 8 and versions beyond which are compatible with any Qi certified charging device.

Wearables are also a big category interested in wireless charging, driven by the Apple Watch, Samsung Gear S2 and other popular products. Even larger electronics have begun adopting wireless charging options. In 2017, Dell launched the world’s first wireless charging laptop with their release of the 2 in 1 Latitude 7285. But consumers are now seeking flexibility with their wireless charging. Energous, a wireless charging corporation, has created a wireless charging ecosystem solution that allows charging without contact up to 15 feet away.

Given access to all these Qi-supported products, it’s interesting that in a recent poll by IHS, only 20% of respondents report actually using wireless charging technology—and only 16% charge their devices with this technology on a daily basis. Most users consider wireless to be a good way to supplement wired charging, rather than a primary charging method. This could be due to the inefficiency of Qi charging compared to wired. Wired charging holds around 85% efficiency in the amount of energy sent out while QI charging has only risen to 75% efficiency from its initial launch percentage of 60%. Generally, wireless charging isn’t as fast as wired. In addition to that, the price difference between wired and wireless explains why adoption rates for wireless charging aren’t higher. Any wireless charger that would outperform a wired charger ranges $40-60, about double the price of any wired charger. This article from MacRumors tests wired versus wireless charger performance with an iPhone X.

SAFETY ISSUES TO CONSIDER

The Qi Wireless Charging Standard—developed by the multinational Wireless Power Consortium—outlines a number of consumer safety precautions, including issues like heat shielding and foreign object detection, especially among non-certified equipment. Recent tests conducted by independent labs found that non-certified charging products can reach almost 200° Fahrenheit—enough to cause a third-degree burn.

Some smartphones claim they are water-resistant, or even waterproof, but most wireless chargers are not. As with all electrical devices that connect to a power outlet, liquid can be very dangerous. Users should never get a wireless charger wet—and need to be sure any phone is dry before setting it down to charge.

A poorly made charger may also not be able to detect if a foreign object—like your keys or a coin is sitting on the pad under your smartphone. As a result, the charging pad may continue to emit power, not only damaging your device, but potentially melting the other objects on the pad. So, it’s important to look for a charger with a foreign object detector—one which will shut down charging and alert you (usually with an LED light) that something other than a compatible device is in contact with your charger.

Finally, when it comes to health and safety, a common cause for concern is the effect of electromagnetic fields (EMF) emitted by wireless chargers. High levels of EMF have been found to pose health risks such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and even suicidal behavior. However, the EMF emission levels involved in wireless charging are negligibly low as there is no sustained human contact with the charging pad. In fact, a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms that exposure to low EMF emissions does not lead to any known health problems.

Products holding Qi certification through the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) go through rigorous testing in order to become regulated. Products may be included in the Qi Certified Product Database under these conditions:

  1. The product has passed compliance testing by an authorized test lab (ATL)
  2. The product has passed interoperability testing by an Interoperability Testing Center (IOC)
  3. The product is compliant with the latest version of the Qi Specification
  4. The owner of the product is a Qi Logo Licensee.

By ensuring that all Qi-Certified devices work together, regardless of manufacturer, country of origin, version of the standard used, etc., the Qi standard ensures a consistent and simple user experience, where a Qi-Certified phone placed on a Qi-Certified charger will simply work. The process of becoming Qi certified is done in six steps:

  1. The manufacturer of the product starts the registration procedure by filling in an on-line form with information about the product, uploads picture and self-declaration forms,  selects the Authorized Test Lab (ATL) that will perform the compliance test, and the InterOperability Testint Center (IOC) that will perform the interoperability test.
  2. The Logo License Administrator (LLA) verifies if the form is filled in correctly.
  3. The Authorized Test Lab (ATL) performs the mandatory compliance tests described in the test specification and uploads a test report summary.
  4. The InterOperability testing Center (IOC) performs the interoperability test
  5. The manufacturer of the product finalizes the description of the product. Uploads a picture showing the product as it will be shipped to customers, and provides the type number that identifies this product. 
  6. The Logo License Administrator (LLA) verifies that the information is complete and consistent and makes the product visible in the product registration database.

FUTURE OUTLOOK

Shipments of wireless power receivers/transmitters are forecasted to grow from some 450 million units back in 2017 to more than 2.2 billion units by 2023. And by 2027, wireless charging shipments are expected to reach 7.5 billion units. Smartphones, wearables and home appliances are predicted to be the top three market drivers for wireless charging over the coming years.

Smartphones should account for about 77% of the 6 billion wireless charging receiver devices sold by 2023. Annual shipment volume for these devices in particular is expected to top one billion units by 2020 and two billion by 2025—according to IHS Markit, the leading global source of critical analytics information and insight.

In addition to current technology, advancements in wireless Qi charging are expected. Ossia, a wireless technology company, is in the process of developing a solution that is capable of transmitting power to a phone case of a distance of a few feet to slowly charge the phone inside. Ossia has partnered with a case making company, Spigen, to bring this product to consumers. The transmitter and power receiving case is set to launch in 2020. The company Solace is creating technology that changes the game for wattage allowance. Their wireless powering solution, Equus, is capable of delivering up to 200 watts versus the typical 5 to 15 watts. This amount of wattage is used to power portable medical equipment like carts, hospital beds and vital signs monitors, and manufacturing test equipment such as sensors and robotics. Wireless charging technology is even crossing over to the automotive sector. BMW is the first car manufacturer to create a wireless charging system for their hybrid car. It is set to be available for the BMW 520e iPerformance plug-in hybrid in 2019. It is also expected to see more charge points in locations such as airport and restaurant tables.

THE QI TO SUCCESS

Ultimately, the broad success of Qi-Certified devices in the marketplace depends on all the elements interfacing seamlessly—regardless of manufacturer, country of origin, version used, etc. The Qi Wireless Charging Standard, mentioned earlier, is intended to do just that: to ensure a consistent and user-friendly experience, one where a Qi-Certified phone placed on a Qi-Certified charger will work reliably, each and every time.

To find to out if your device is Qi compatible, check out the Wireless Power Consortium’s product database tool.

In a world where people can work from home, why sacrifice the convenience and comfort in an office space?

Design and coworking spaces are constantly changing. And while it seems hard to keep up initially, understanding how wireless power is completely changing the way we designspaces is a big first step.

WIRELESS POWER IN WORK SPACES

Just a couple of decades ago, the workplace was designed around the significant technology explosion of USB and other cables. So many new technologies needed to be connected – to sync, to charge, and to function at all.

This required several changes to workplace design. In an effort to accommodate the cables and cords that were so prevalent in workspaces, furniture made a shift. Desktops and bench style tables were designed to include troughs or other under-surface cable organizers. Raised floors were invented in an effort to manage cables, cords, connections, and power charging without cluttering desks, conference rooms, and other shared spaces.

Even with these new design styles, designing new methods for cable management were the beginning of countless startups, technology branches, and other new designs. But as we’ve learned in Business School, leadership books, and TED Talks alike, incremental change isn’t the way to a blue ocean strategy.

Fast forward to the mid-2010s and we’ve seen massive changes in how the workspace is designed.

With the emergence of Bluetooth and wireless power, cables no longer need to be managed but rather sought.

Gone are the days of needing to charge your phone in your car during your lunch breaks. Office spaces, restaurants, and hospitality spaces are all finding the great value in wireless power within their walls.

 

WIRELESS POWER BENEFITS FOR DESIGNERS AND MARKETERS

Wireless power encourages smartphone owners to find the nearest pad, case, or any other home for inductive coupling. Rather than being chained to a wall by a 3ft cable, users can set down their phones on a surface that will charge their phones. Some of the biggest benefits include:

Benefit 1

Eliminating the need to remember to pack a charger when staying at a hotel with wireless power

 

Benefit 1

Reducing the need to use a car charger rather than plug in at work, in airports, or at a coffee shop with wireless power

 

Eliminating the need to buy phone chargers by the dozen

 

 

These benefits alone can influence a decision on where to stay for vacation, where to work, what airport to use, and what brand of charger to swear by. As designers, it’s critical to maintain spaces that complement those who work within it. And as marketers, it’s just as critical to understand pain points that led to these design shifts.

While designing with these new technologies may force costs to be incurred sooner rather than later, they are quickly becoming the expectation for the base norm.

WHAT IS WIRELESS POWER CHARGING?

The word “wireless” is often associated with wifi – but in this case, it’s simply not the same. Wireless power is simply the transfer of energy without the use of connecting cords or cables. In other words, wireless power enables charging smart devices without the need to plug them in.

In reference to this blog about charging, wireless charging accomplishes the same goal through a different method. Broken down into simpler terms, wireless charging is created by the transferring of an electrical current.

A few common examples of wireless charging include pads on desk surfaces for charging phones, phone cases that charge, and electric toothbrush stands. In order to use wireless power properly, one’s device must be compatible. As you can see from the aforementioned examples, wireless charging can take different forms and is utilized differently in various spaces.

According to Power By Proxi, “by eliminating the use of physical connectors and cables, wireless charging provides a number of efficiency, cost and safety advantages over the traditional charging cable.” This form of charging is safer by eliminating trip hazards and potential fire hazards of using frayed cables. It is also cost-effective in the long run by accommodating more people with fewer products and only requiring one purchase (see examples).

 

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Inductive Coupling

 

Inductive coupling might be the most commonly considered and used form of wireless power. This technology has been around a bit longer than other popular forms of wireless charging. In fact, it’s probably how you charge your electric toothbrush. A coil in the charging stand actually creates a magnetic field which ultimately charges the brush.

 

Resonant Coupling

Resonant Wireless Charging

 

Resonant charging is slightly less common. Resonant coupling was discovered by studies conducted at MIT when searching for a better solution than inductive coupling. Unsettled that inductive coupling had to be in very near proximity in order to charge, the studies set out to find a form of wireless charging that didn’t require proximity.

The studies at MIT summarized that inductive coupling encourages efficiency whereas resonant coupling is all about convenience. Both have different applications, and you can discover more about them in this article. Both are entirely safe to be used in buildings (including schools and hospitals) as a means of providing power and charging without the cords and cables usually envisioned when planning the design of buildings requiring power.

HOW DOES WIRELESS CHARGING CHANGE POWER IN THE WORKPLACE?

Imagine an office setting that is no longer tethered to a 6ft cable. Now imagine a workplace scenario where smartphones can be left sitting out on pads and in troughs to charge. The future is here – and keeping up with this technology as it advances will be critical in not only improving the way people interact with your designs but also with how people interact with their devices and (by proxy) their passions.

With such a demand for charging in order to stay connected, workspace design has been confined to specific layouts. And while technology and design have both evolved into beautiful, efficient, and creative solutions, limiting the need for cords even a small amount opens up the possibilities that much more. Wireless power has set designers free – so start speccing with this incredible technology today.

Learn more about how wireless power has changed and will continue to change the design of spaces in this blog.

Have you ever Googled “what is charging”? The funny thing is, it seems like such an obvious question until you see the answers.

What even????

 

Not that kind of charging. Today, when we talk about charging we’re almost always talking about our devices so we can stay connected. But what is charging really?

THE BASICS OF CHARGING YOUR DEVICES

Your phone battery is essentially a tiny compartment of chemical energy. Every time you plug your phone in to charge, you’re basically the catalyst to reset a chemical reaction which inside the battery. For those of you who passed chemistry, charging is the transfer of electrons from the negative end of a battery to the positive end (and for those who liked chemistry, electrons passing from the negative anode to the cathode).

Most smartphone or smart device technology now includes a Lithium-ion battery. Charging works the same way with these batteries, despite slightly modified components within the battery. But we won’t get into the details.

HOW AMPERAGE, VOLTAGE, AND WATTAGE WORK TOGETHER WHEN CHARGING

Amperage is the strength of an electric current often used to measure charging. In fact, amperage is the difference between a lightning quick full charge and an all-day trickle. Amperage is the defining factor of how quickly your device will charge.

Voltage, on the other hand, is the unit of current. Interestingly enough, it is actually a function of pressure – and in this case referencing the chemical reaction that creates charge. In simpler terms (kind of), voltage is equal to the pressure that pushes electrons through their conductive loop (or from the anode to the cathode).

Wattage, on the other hand, is the rate at which energy is either created or spent. Watts represent energy per unit of time. As an example we’ve all run into, when buying light bulbs, a 100W light bulb means that the light bulb will last for 100 Watt hours.

These three concepts tie together in this formula defining charge:

Watts = Amps x Volts

So, for example, a phone charger delivering 5 Watts = 5 Volts x 1000 mA.

According to this in-depth article from Wired:

“For example, consider these charging scenarios for the Retina iPad mini. You could use a Lightning connector plugged into a computer (via USB), an iPhone charger connected to a wall socket, or an iPad charger connected to a wall socket. A PC USB charger delivers 2.5 Watts of power (5 volts at 500 mA). An iPhone charger delivers 5 Watts (5 volts at 1000 mA). A Retina iPad mini charger delivers 10 watts (5.1 volts at 2100 mA).

“While all of these will charge your iPad, using the USB connected to a PC will charge your Retina mini four times slower than if you used the iPad charger it came with. Conversely, if you use a tablet charger for your smartphone, it’d charge up faster than normal (Note: Some devices like the iPhone will only draw up to 1A of current no matter the charger). If you play mix-and-match with these types of chargers like this, don’t worry – you’re not going to blow up your phone or anything crazy like that. And the myth that charging your device at a faster rate will reduce the life of your device’s battery is false. For some older devices, the higher specced charger just won’t work at all, while newer devices will just charge faster.

“Ultimately, it’s really the amperage that determines how fast a charger will supply power to your device. If you want quicker charging, look for a wall or car charger that delivers 2100 mA of current at 5 volts (or whatever voltage the device you’re trying to charge is specced at).”

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND RECOMMENDED WATTAGE, AMPERAGE, AND VOLTAGE WHEN CHARGING?

The age-old question: how fast of a charger is too fast? As you’ve noticed, the larger the brick, the quicker the charge.

Larger bricks accommodate for larger chemical reactions and pressurization – charging phone batteries even quicker. Naturally, an iPad requires more reaction to charge. Accordingly, an iPad charger will charge your iPhone quicker whereas an iPhone charger could equate to a trickle charge for your iPad.

The best way to know that you are protecting your devices and charging properly is to check their tags or manuals. If you don’t have either handy, a quick Google search will keep you on the right track.

But to reiterate the point from Wired’s article, it’s a myth that you will reduce phone battery life or blow up your phone by charging at a higher wattage than its standard charger offers. Newer, higher wattage chargers simply speed up the charging process.