Electronic Design
Power Was In The Air At The 2011 International CES

Power Was In The Air At The 2011 International CES

When I left my house for this year’s International CES, I had a nagging feeling that I had forgotten something. I couldn’t think of what it might be until I settled into my hotel room in Las Vegas and placed my BlackBerry phone on the desk. I had forgotten the power adapter.

Immediately, I started calculating the time left in the phone versus a possible solution. My first thought was to beg for a wireless charging pad at an event that I would be attending that evening called the Digital Experience!

While we were there, we shot a video with Maya Cohen of Powermat, now available for viewing on EngineeringTV.com. During the interview, she explained the state of the art in wireless charging, but she would not part with one of the company’s systems. However, we did discuss a future solution to this type of problem.

I asked Cohen if Powermat had ever thought of embedding its technology into the desks of hotel rooms. She said that the company had already placed its products in furniture accessories, such as lamps, and had just announced a deal with General Motors to embed its product into the Chevy Volt.

“Basically, we’re providing wireless charging wherever you need it—at home, in your car, at the airport, and in your hotel. You don’t have to take your charger with you anymore. You’re going to expect to have wireless charging available,” Cohen explained.

This vision of wireless power did not solve my immediate problem, but Cohen thought the Powermat solution might be in place in Las Vegas hotels come next CES. We’ll see.

My next encounter with wireless charging was at the Texas Instruments suite at the show. John Beall, who is a product marketing manager at TI, explained that the company had just introduced the first Qi (pronounced chee) certified development kit, the bqTESLA100LP.

The kit is expected to help design engineers speed the integration of wireless power technology in consumer electronics, such as digital cameras, smart phones, MP3 players, and global positioning systems, along with infrastructure applications such as furniture and cars.

Key components of the bqTESLA development kit include: the bq500110 wireless power transmitter manager; the bq25046 single-input, 5-V power-supply IC; the MSP430bq1010 wireless power control and communications microcontroller; and associated magnetics for applications requiring 5 W or less. No additional software development is required.

Available now for $499, the kit can be ordered at www.ti.com/bqTESLA100LP-pr. In addition, the individual components of the kit are available for purchase in production quantities.

With companies like Texas Instruments entering the wireless power space, you can be sure that the technology will be very big in the future. In fact, iSuppli predicted as much last June when it issued a report entitled “Wireless Charging Market Set to Expand by Factor of Nearly 70 by 2014.”

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According to the report, a flood of electronic products with wireless charging capability will be arriving on the market in the coming years, causing global shipments of such solutions to soar to 234.9 million units in 2014, up by a factor of 65 from 3.6 million in 2010.

At the time, iSuppli noted that one way to spur adoption by the market is for the wireless charging industry to adopt a common standard that would ensure interoperability among the solutions being developed. Last June, all commercial solutions were based on proprietary technologies, and the skin made by one company, for example, wouldn’t work with the charger pad of another.

About a month after this report, the Wireless Power Consortium announced the Qi low-power standard, delivering up to 5 W into wireless power receivers. The specifications consist of three documents: Interface Definition, Performance Requirements, and Compliance Testing.

More information about the Qi low-power standard and these documents can be found at www.wirelesspowerconsortium.com.

How did I solve my particular problem? After failing to get a wireless charging “loaner,” I visited a 24-hour Walgreens across the street from my hotel. Conveniently enough, the store had a bunch of chargers on sale for various mobile devices. I picked one up for my BlackBerry for about 20 bucks. I guess I’m not the only one who has forgotten to bring a charger to Vegas.

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