Wireless charge at a distance

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Energous is “very close” to introducing its breakthrough in wireless charging, according to Steve Rizzone, who is the company’s president and CEO. WattUp will charge enabled devices from up to 18 feet away, even while you use them.

WattUp will debut by mid-2017 as a contact-based charger for small, wearable devices (think: fitness trackers). That will be followed in late 2017 by a version that can power devices wirelessly within a few feet of the transmitter. The full-powered version—which will top off devices’ power continuously within 15-18 feet of the transmitter, even while you use those devices—will debut in the first half of 2018.

One catch exists: At press time, Energous didn’t have the Federal Communications Commission certification for WattUp's noncontact charging, but Rizzone says it’s “on the path to certification.” (Energous does have FCC certification for contact-based charging.)

The technology that’s behind WattUp isn’t without shortcomings. An issue of compromised efficiency exists, says John Perzow of Wireless Power Consortium. The farther that energy has to travel, the more that it dissipates, which means that it becomes less effective at charging, Perzow explains.

Rizzone doesn’t disagree, but he points out that the reduced efficiency of the system (estimated to be about 70 percent to 80 percent) is made up for by the fact that devices that are within WattUp’s range receive power constantly.

Consequently, Rizzone says, charging over longer periods—even at lower rates—still means that devices have their battery topped off continuously.

 

This story was revised to clarify in regard to the FCC certification of the device.