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Energous pairs with Dialog in RF wireless charging

Posted: 20 Aug 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:wireless charging? wearables? WattUp? Energous? Dialog?

WattUp developer Energous Corp. is taking its RF push to cord-free charging of wearable devices with Dialog Semiconductor plc, in a partnership to develop reference designs for engaging engineers and promoting the market for wire-free power.

The so-called proof-of-concept reference design will integrate Energous' over-the-air wireless charging technology into Dialog's low-power Bluetooth Smart IC that includes energy harvesting support (see Dialog announces availability of Bluetooth Smart SoC).

Coming in 2.5mm x 2.5mmpackage, using Dialog's IC is an advantage in itself considering that the reference design is targeted at wearable devices. The dimension fits easily in small form factors. Its SmartBond architecture combines low-power radio and intelligent power management, claiming to provide the highest level of integration with the fewest external components of any Bluetooth Smart solution available today.

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Dialog DA14580 SmartBond IC. Source: Dialog

The reference design will "demonstrate the ability to charge wearable CE devices without the need for power connectors or charging mats," according to Sean McGrath, Connectivity, Automotive & Industrial Business Group SVP and GM at Dialog Semiconductor.

Free movement is something Energous' WattUp wireless charging platform is designed to provide. It works by directing Bluetooth to locate the device in need of charging and focusing the radio waves to charge the devices automatically using the same frequency bands as a Wi-Fi router (see WattUp takes RF approach to wire-free wearables charging).

"By optimising WattUp with Dialog's SmartBond connectivity and power management technology, OEMs will be able to seamlessly and rapidly integrate wire-free charging and remote management right into their devices," said Stephen R. Rizzone, CEO of Energous Corporation.

Cutting the cord

The partnership between Energous and Dialog is not the first of its kind. The industry has seen other similar initiatives from some of the biggest Silicon Valley companies in driving standardisation and mass adoption of cord-free charging. There is Qualcomm and Gill Technology for charging cars and other furniture (see Qualcomm powers up wireless charging initiative), as well as Intel and WiTricity for resonance-based charging of notebooks, tablets, smartphones and other portable electronics (see Intel, WiTricity go cord-free with charging).

"For consumers to really benefit from wireless power, they need to have access to multiple 'charging stations' throughout their typical day," according to Ryan Sanderson, Wireless Power Principal Analyst at IHS.

If having an infrastructure in place is the basic requirement for wireless charging to enter the mainstream, this infrastructure must first have a power transfer specification to implement, and having one too many to choose from can prove to be a huge barrier.

On the one end of the spectrum is Wireless Power Consortium's Qi, a close-coupled magnetic induction-based charging system. Standing on the other is Alliance for Wireless Power's Rezence, a transfer technology and specification based on the principles of magnetic resonance. Each technology claims advantages, with each having big Silicon Valley companies backing it up. Choosing the best is a task most businesses tend to shy away from.

The existence of competing wireless charging technologies puts a damper on mass-market adoption efforts that has been made so far. The idea behind going wireless is to allow mobility, powering electronic devices in homes, offices, cars, and public spaces. No one would likely approve the thought of moving from place to place, a smartphone with near-empty battery in hand, in search for location that provides the same charging specification that the device supports.

So until there is a single wireless charging technology the majority agrees to implement, it may take a while before the cord can be cut from electronic chargers.

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