Nearly every home has one—that drawer overflowing with device chargers, just waiting to be unraveled and plugged in. Some are for devices long forgotten or replaced. Whatever state they’re in, used or unused, these chargers and their cables are “space suckers.” And in use, they can be real eyesore.
The most elegant and oft-mentioned solution is wireless charging, or inductive charging, which uses an electromagnetic field to transfer energy from one object to another. (Your rechargeable electric toothbrush is just one form of inductive charging). Imagine just placing your smartphone down on a charging pad or table without the hassle of searching for an outlet and then realizing your charger cable is too short.
“We call it ‘drop and go’,” says Geoff Gordon, a senior manager at Qualcomm (which is a member of Alliance for Wireless Power. Gordon believes that once the growing pains—such as defining standards, compatibility and relatively high prices— are overcome, the ecosystem is ready to take off in the next few years. Indeed, research firm IHS predicts that shipments of wireless power enabled devices are projected to grow from 5 million units this year to close to 100 million by 2015.
Gordon says the possibilities for wireless charging are infinite—just imagine inductive charging spaces/areas strategically placed everywhere you go, serving all your electronic devices. In the longer term, you might be able:
- Place and charge your smartphone in the armrest or center console of your car—no wires to mess with while driving
- Dine at nearly any restaurant and charge your smartphone by simply placing it on the table (in fact, Gordon says that wireless charging stations in restaurants and coffee shops are coming soon)
- Shop at a supermarket while your smartphone sits and charges in a shopping cart caddy, drawing energy while you browse aisles equipped with charging zones
- Charge your electric vehicle (EV) by simply parking and eventually driving on the highway
- Place appliances on the kitchen counter and power them without having to plug in
- Purchase more affordable big-ticket appliances—such as refrigerators—since wireless charging would eliminate power converters and thus reduce production costs
- Grab a meal or beer at the airport or an event while your smartphone charges in a locker
- Rest your cordless power tools on a portable workbench/counter where they could trickle charge
- Attend a concert or sporting event and place your phone on the armrest or table in front of you and charge.
Many of these ideas are not pipe dreams but actually being tested now. Once the growing pains Gordon mentioned are overcome, the wireless charging could be revolutionary. And finally, you could dump that drawer full of device chargers.