It’s a similar story with Energous, which has announced an impressive set of partnerships and has demonstrated its WattUp technology several times but has yet to reach consumers. Technovator did not go to market. Witricity is centered on electric vehicles. Powercast was one of the first companies to release a consumer device, wireless charging grip and transmitter for the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controllers, but it costs $150 and has a range of only about one foot. The killer product to push adoption remains elusive.
GuRu, the company behind Motorola’s demo, may be a few steps away from its peers. It uses an RF lens to send focused beams from the generating unit (Gu) to the recovery unit (Ru). Ali Hajimere, GuRu’s co-founder and chief scientific advisor, shows me a pair of tiny chips with built-in antennas the size of a Lego block and says the company has developed flexible materials that enable the technology to work in different types of devices.
“We are the only company that can power multiple watts of power for multiple devices by multiple meters, at the same time,” Hajimere says.
I first met GuRu at CES 2020 to see the Rovi, a portable robotic vacuum cleaner-like transmitter that moves to charge various devices, getting close enough to charge a useful amount of power. The company has made progress since then. Its technology combines ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit), an intelligent algorithm that can quickly and efficiently focus power into a small spot, and most importantly, a higher frequency to deliver more power over a longer range.
Most of these technologies started at the 2.4GHz frequency that we know from Wi-Fi, and that’s also the frequency that charges your new Samsung remote control most effectively. Energous uses the 5.8GHz frequency, and Ossia switches to 5.8GHz with its Cota technology. Part of GuRu’s secret sauce is its ability to operate at 24GHz. Not only does this jump mean more power and a longer range, but it also allows for smaller transceivers. A smartphone-sized generating unit can charge an earphone at a distance of several feet.
“It’s like a magnifying glass where you can focus the energy in one place, but this spot can move, and you can make multiple points,” Hajimere says.
chicken and eggs
This need for transceivers built into our products hindered the early adoption of wireless power over distances. Sounds convenient, but who would spend hundreds of dollars on a power router that supports a limited range of devices or requires an update mod add-on?
“I think a good analogy for this technology is Wi-Fi,” Hajimere says. “In the early days, you had to buy this huge PCMCIA card to put your laptop in, and a lot of people were saying, ‘I’ll never use Wi-Fi because my ethernet cable is 100 times faster. “
Wi-Fi has improved tremendously, and we accept successful performance for the convenience of wireless connectivity. Strength can follow the same path, and there are other potential benefits.