Wireless Power: The time has come!
We all have that love/hate relationship with cables. You know, having to plug all those devices in to keep them alive. With all of the new small mobile devices appearing and all of the new thinner phones we are seeing, one thing that is continually a problem is battery life. You know, that little square brick thing. The thing that, at the end of its life, fills up landfills with hazardous waste. I’m not talking close range wireless inductive power charging. We have that now. I’m talking long distance remote wireless power. Using a standard wireless power system, device lifetimes will extend far longer. No longer do you need to go track down an elusive battery to fit that old device. Let’s explore wireless power.
As devices get smaller and smaller, one thing becomes painfully obvious, we cannot make batteries any better. Our battery technology is firmly limited in how much power it can hold and supply in a small size. The smaller the battery, the less power it holds. Our reducing electronics in size isn’t helping matters here. Worse, our battery technologies are relatively hazardous and, if charged wrong or if the battery gets fatigued, can explode or catch fire harming or injuring someone.
But, why do we continue to use batteries when it’s really not necessary? I’ll answer that, it’s because of the battery industry. That industry thinks that wireless power would replace batteries. But, that thinking is wrong. For small devices, we will still need the device to hold a capacitance charge for at least 15-30 minutes when traveling between areas without wireless power. Once a large enough network of wireless power is available, that capacitance charge requirement may no longer be necessary. Until then, most mobile phone devices have to accommodate off-grid usage for at least 30 minutes at a time and must hold at least that much power. However, a 30 minute charge shouldn’t require a huge brick of a battery. Though, some devices can choose not to offer this capacitance charge at all if it is designed with the intent of never being off of the grid.
It’s fairly clear that cell phones need some form of extended power. Though, if you are in a car, your car could supply wireless power along with such places as your home, your workplace, shopping malls, restaurants, etc. Unless you live in a cabin in the woods without power, you probably live where wireless power could work. Even in a cabin in the woods, wirelessly transmitted power could reach such remote destinations giving power options to many who can’t afford to string power cables.
Wireless Power and Benefits
If you’ve seen any recent SciFi movie, you’ve probably seen a character pull out a transparent flat screen device or pull out a full motion newspaper. These devices could actually become real with wireless power. Neither of these devices are possible today. Why? because we cannot create a small enough battery to run these devices and retain the thin nature of the device. Instead, to support flat profile devices without the need for weighty and short lasting batteries, we need wireless power. Just as we have WiFi networks, we can set up wireless power networks that work much in the same way as WiFi.
Each device will register itself with the power network. If there’s an account associated with that device, you will be able to obtain power from the network no matter where you are. If you’re roaming, you might incur higher charges to pay for the power on a network that isn’t yours based on the local rates. Though, it’s also possible you could pay less if you roamed into a cheaper power area. If a business chooses to offer free power service (such as hotels or coffee shops) that’s also their choice.
With wireless power providing electricity to our devices, designers no longer need to worry about batteries in their design. No longer do consumers need to worry about if their device might catch fire or explode or, in general, become a hazard. With wireless power, we can finally see paper thin devices including such devices as electronic newspapers or bendable tablet devices. It could be used for full motion flat posters or window displays. It could be used on the front of device packages (though, this might be an excessively wasteful use of this). It could be used in game controllers for endless power. Motion displays could be added to video game controllers without the need to worry about power usage. It could be used on notebooks for endless power. There are immense design benefits here for every vendor who relies on battery technology to power their devices.
Wireless power offers tremendous advantages over wired power. The most obvious is no more batteries, no more cables, reduction in device weight and the ability to always power small electronic devices that we always carry around. No longer would we have to worry about whether the battery is dying or the consequences of that. In fact, battery meters would become a thing of the past on most devices.
Wired Power vs Wireless Power
It’s clear that wired power will still have its place. To support 240V or higher, these devices would likely still need to be wired. But, for small portable devices, we need full long range wireless power. Just like moving to HDTV improved our visual entertainment experiences, moving to wireless power will vastly improve our electronics experiences for many years to come.
How would it work?
Tesla has already provided the concept to make it work. He was in the process of setting up his proof of concept when the power companies thought it might cause free power for everyone and the whole project was scrapped and his Tesla tower was abandoned. That was in the early 1900s. Since then, we have not explored wireless power. Instead, we explored the telephone, the lightbulb and many other inventions around that time, but Tesla’s vision of wireless power was way ahead of its time. However, long range wireless power is not without some hurdles. The protocol will need to be built and tested and the delivery and receiving systems will also need to be designed, built and tested.
Today, we actually need wireless power to move to the next paradigm shift in devices so we can eliminate the waste and the weight in our small portable devices. It will take some time to get there. It definitely won’t happen overnight. The power companies will need to adopt the shift to wireless power. But, only after supporting infrastructure technologies comes to exist.
That means that the power companies, like the cell phone companies, will need to build towers throughout the city. The technical infrastructure would work much like WiFi networks. In fact, were the power companies to actually move on this initiative, they could even set up their own Internet connectivity networks separate from the wireless carriers. The power companies could actually put themselves into a position with a huge alternative revenue stream in addition to wireless power. In fact, because the devices will need to be able to negotiate their connectivity on the wireless power network, an actual data network will need to be in place. This is the reason Tesla’s ideas were too far ahead. His wireless power idea required the data network to support registration of devices. That couldn’t be done in the early 1900s. Today, it makes perfect sense to offer both wireless power and wireless networking throughout the city to allow for registration of devices on the network.
Unfortunately, our power companies have remained mostly short sighted and stagnant choosing to stick to power generation and wired power. Every technology deficit eventually catches up with every industry and the power industry is no exception. We need devices that don’t require batteries. The power companies are in the position to offer that goal. We now need the technology and power generation industries to meet in the middle so technology can progress into new paradigms.
It’s unfortunate that the power companies haven’t seen these other revenue potentials. As the anti-posterchild for the power industry, Enron tried alternative money making methods such as bidding for and selling power on the open market in addition to trading energy contracts. We all know what came out of that: California got the shaft causing consumers to pay a huge premium for power (and suffer from rolling power outages) and Enron hid its debt behind confusing business vehicles of which bankruptcy was inevitable (including Arthur Andersen.. their accounting auditor). This is not what we need. We need to viable plan for our future power needs.
There are creative, but illegitimate means ways to make a buck, as Enron has so aptly proven. Though, employing illegitimate means of making money eventually catches up with you. On the other hand, there are creative and legitimate means to extend existing services into new markets and, at the same time, bring about new paradigm shifts. Such a shift will occur when we begin using wireless power to deliver power to our watches, notebooks and tablets. Wireless power will ultimately clear the way for new devices like motion posters, flat paper displays, wearable displays (i.e., on clothing), lighted clothing and other much thinner and lighter devices. It will allow for cable free and plug free lighting around the home. No more tripping over cables on lamps or sending devices hurtling through the air.
Appliances and high powered devices (clothes dryers, electric stoves, refrigerators, etc) will likely always need a plug. But, our small electronics will perform quite well on wireless power. The time has officially come for us to cut the cord and setup and use true wireless power.