What’s On

#sowhoknew: Throw away your charger…why Wi-Fi will set you free!

The three most common things my wife says to me are (in reverse rank order):

  • why can’t you put the toilet seat down?
  • can you have a word with the kids about… insert various options here
  • my phone battery is dead

And my three most common answers are:

  • it wasn’t me, it was the dog
  • I already did and they ignored me too
  • I wish they would hurry up and invent wireless charging

Occasionally I mix up the responses just for some variety but I digress… Anyway it seems that quite soon I may have to change one of my answers because it appears that some boffins at the University of Washington have successfully trialed the charging of a variety of devices via a humble Wi-Fi connection…

This revolutionary system apparently integrates with existing Wi-Fi infrastructure so there is no need for a brand new technology. The eggheads essentially upgraded an off-the-shelf Asus box to make it operate as a conventional Wi-Fi router but also as a wireless power source. Without getting too technical, it basically harnesses the energy that a router already puts out and uses it more efficiently. Rechargeable batteries with custom sensors were then installed in items like a digital camera. These sensors then converted the Wi-Fi signal into electricity to recharge the batteries. The system successfully charged a variety of devices up to 28 feet away from the router.

Sounds pretty impressive right? Well I guess it is but inevitably there are a couple of snags. The biggest one is the small matter of the Federal Communications Commission’s imposed limit of just one-watt power outputs on wireless routers. To put that into context, an iPhone charger is five watts and a MacBook Air charger is 45 watts. So essentially that means the FCC regulations would have to be significantly altered for the technology to offer any real value to the consumer.

Now of course, there are already some wireless ‘inductive’ charging systems on the market but they are not particularly practical. The charger cases required on these systems are often just too bulky, heavy and unsightly. Not only that, they are not truly wireless as your device still has to be tethered closely to a charging station of some description. As such they haven’t seen serious mainstream adoption. This new technology represents the first wireless charging solution that could actually be a serious alternative (or maybe even viable replacement) to the cumbersome wires we have become to shackled to.

And if that’s the case then the daily discussion about why Mrs B’s iPhone battery is flat again will disappear as rapidly as the clunky cables that Wi-Fi charging will inevitably replace.

Then my only concern will be what question will take its place? I’m just guessing, but maybe it will be along the lines of, “what is the Wi-Fi password again?”

DISCLAIMER: the comments used in this article are from a purely fictitious Mrs Blakeman and are not an actual representation of the actual Mrs Blakeman who would never say such things (or at least that’s what she told me to say)

Steve Blakeman

Steve Blakeman is the Global Media Lead - Nestlé at Mindshare. Previously, he was the Managing Director - Global Accounts, OMD Europe. Previously, he was the CEO, Asia Pacific – OMD. Prior to that, he was Global Chief Integration Strategy Officer (Asia Pacific) for IPG Mediabrands (Initiative & Universal McCann). He has also had stints as worked as Managing Partner at Omnicom Media Group owned media agency, PHD where he successfully launched their second office in the UK. He began his career at JWT and has over two decades of experience in advertising, media and marketing communications.