While wireless power solutions have been evolving, solar charging solutions could eventually overtake them, given the convenience of not having to use charging pads and other accessories.
Wireless-charging solutions are quickly moving ahead. The prevailing Qi standard, for example, is featured in the new Google Nexus 7 tablet. Meanwhile, the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) is planning to debut a consumer brand before the end of the year. While much of the industry has been watching these two groups to see which standard will ultimately prevail, solar charging also has joined the fray—eliminating the need for charging pads and other wireless-charging accessories in the process.
Essentially, the Chinese firm TCL Communication has teamed with France’s Sunpartner to integrate the Wysips Crystal technology into smartphone screens. Wysips, which stands for “What You See Is Photovoltaïc Surface,” is a subsidiary of Sunpartner. It has invented a component that can supposedly transform any surface into a solar energy-producing medium without changing its look. Sunpartner is currently designing prototypes for three top global mobile-telephony companies.
Whether light-based charging solutions can affect today’s wireless-power market really depends on how fast they can get to market, as the incumbents have been making steady progress. Beyond the new Google tablet, the Wireless Power Consortium’s Qi standard has carved out market share in popular devices like the Motorola Droid Razr MAXX, Samsung Galaxy S4, Nokia Lumia 1020, and Google Nexus 4. The technology is featured in over 200 mobile phones and accessories as well as automobiles like the 2014 Jeep Cherokee and Toyota Avalon and Prius. The consortium now includes more than 140 companies as members.
Following on Qi’s heels is the A4WP, which has grown to more than 50 members. This past June, the alliance proved the technology’s interoperability—and its emphasis on flexible solutions—with its first major “plugfest” in Korea. After working independently to implement the A4WP baseline system specification (BSS) Version 1.1, a number of companies brought their chargers and devices based on the A4WP specification to the Plugfest and successfully demonstrated wireless power transfer in various combinations. An independent product-certification program is expected to be up and running this fall. With a recognizable brand name out in the market, the A4WP may be able to corner some of the market—unless solar charging gets there first.