A truly wireless life


    Physical connectivity was never the most popular within the technological world. Although physical connectivity was much more reliable, secure and better in quality the man always preferred its wireless counterpart. The convenience of not being connected physically was more appealing to the human which suited his active lifestyle. The traditional telephone is loosing the battle against its mobile successor. The Wi-Fi is gaining ground connecting people to the internet. But can we claim to have a truly wireless life? The biggest and the most important aspect, the power keeps us connected physically. You may argue that you are wireless if you are using a laptop but it is still as long as the battery is alive. Even with new technologies emerge in the area of long lasting batteries it is still has to be connected physically to be recharged. Have we hit the wall in trying to discover a wireless life? Maybe not. This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) unveiled the very technology that would change our lifestyle dramatically in the next decade.


    Wireless electricity is a concept where your devices no longer needed be connected to power sockets to obtain electricity. The power would transfer to your device without any connection such as a traditional copper wire. For example your television would no longer need any plugs but it would obtain the required electricity wirelessly from a particular position or positions within your house. Your mother would no longer need to find the required power cables for her food processor. It could just stay on the countertop and do the required food processing activity.


    So how does this work? Well the best method yet found is through induction. A transformer in the street or the charger of your mobile phone uses this particular principle. But the biggest drawback is in this method is that it is only short range. The receiver should be at a close proximity of the transmitter. As the distance between the receiver and the transmitter increases, the efficiency of the transmission reduces thus resulting in a large wastage of power. “Resonant induction” has overcome the above drawback. Resonant coupling enables the transmitter and the receiver to be tuned to a mutual frequency that is more efficient than the usual sinusoidal wave form. This rectangular or transient waveform is able to transmit electricity of a range of many meters.


    Now let’s leave the nerdy stuff and get into the more geeky information. “Fulton Innovations” was one of the biggest names in the CES this year. Their technology “eCoupled” is believed to be used by wide range of consumer devices.  “eCoupled” uses circuit boards and coils to transmit energy but still only works effectively at close ranges. Its current product, a charging mat enables any portable consumer device to be charged when it is laid on top of it. Yes, no wires. Just lay your ipod or your mobile on the mat and it will power up your devices. The same application is extended to the kitchen where you can give electricity to your devices by just placing the appliance at a particular place in your kitchen counter. If you want to stop the device you just need to remove the appliance from that particular place. Currently they say that the mat can transmit 1,500 watts of electricity through a kitchen counter at 98.6% percent efficiency. Although “Fulton” was the “Wow” of the CES 2009, there were others who brought similar and equally impressive technology. One application was a wireless auditorium where none of the devices were connected physically. A laptop and projector were connected wirelessly to carryout a presentation and at the same time both devices were being powered by wireless electricity. In another few years you would no longer need to carry your power or VGA cables but instead you could open up your laptop and you will be connected to the projector wirelessly and at the same time your laptop would be powered by wireless electricity. Remember the mobile credit reload method that allowed one customer’s mobile credit to be transferred to another customer’s mobile credit through a text message? Well what if you could juice up the power of your mobile through similar means. Well you can. A company had developed a technology to transfer a power of a consumer device to another consumer device through wireless electricity. Furthermore it also allows you to “Daisy Chain” these devices which allow the chain of devices to transfer electricity as collection of transmitters and receivers. So the next time your mobile runs out of power you can just borrow some from your friend’s ipod or mobile.


    So is wireless electricity a new concept. Not really. This notion has being around for many years but none of them have gone beyond the initial prototype. Most recent was the British company “Splash” who introduced their own charging pads in 2004. How would it be different this time? Would “Fulton” become another one of those bankrupt firms in a few years? Maybe not. Wireless Power Consortium was formed in last December which is dedicated to the establishment of a common standard for wireless charging. Few big names such as Philips, Sanyo, Logitech, Texas Instruments have joined the consortium including Fulton. This would allow a development of a single efficient method of wireless power transmission. This biggest challenge they would face is maintaining a high efficiency. Although you may argue that there is also a loss of power during the traditional transmission through a copper wire it is considerably lower than the loss of wireless electricity. Unless this particular drawback is sorted out, there is no incentive in moving into this technology no matter how cool it looks. Let us remain optimistic. This very well could be our next life changing innovation after the computer.







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    Isuru Devaka Wijeyaratne is currently a graduate student of Rutgers Business School studying towards his Masters degree in Quantitative Finance. Isuru is a product of Royal College and D.S.Senanayake College. He is also a graduate of Computer Science and Engineering from University of Moratuwa. He also carries 2 years of experience as a business analyst for capital markets at Millennium Information Technologies. He was also the first Microsoft Student Ambassador of Sri Lanka from the year 2004 to 2006 working to develop the technical enthusiasm in students. He is a tech lover and has written regularly to technical magazines. He loves to read DC and Marvel comics and enjoys watching Japanese anime.


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