I have discussed the need for wireless charging on several occasions and mentioned a new ultrasonic technique here. One issue with the ultrasonic method is inefficient penetration of materials. For example, a simple mobile phone case has the potential to prevent charging. My version of transparency demands that the user have to do nothing to connect. It needs to occur well ummm…. transparently. I mentioned the problem with inductive charging being range and the need for a one meter range. Well, I was mistaken about the limitations of inductive charging. In fact, mistaken is an understatement. Back in 2007, Karalis, Joannopoulos, and Soljac published “Efficient wireless non-radiative mid-range energy transfer” in Annals of Physics. Apple was more observant than I am and picked up on this. The result is their patent “Wireless Power Utilization in a Local Computing Environment.” It describes wireless charging over about a one meter range. The near term impacts of this are small but the long range impact will almost certainly be huge. This isn’t a one off patent from Apple. They have already been looking at more typical very short range inductive charging solutions. For example patent 7352567, “Methods and apparatuses for docking a portable electronic device that has a planar like configuration and that operates in multiple orientations”, describes a wireless charging and data connection base for the iPad. It’s interesting for also including a wireless data connection in the base.
In terms of long range potential, imagine having your phone charged while you drive your car or while you sit at your desk at work or when you sit in your recliner at home watching TV. Freeing the phone from its battery limitations opens it up to become your primary computing device where you are able to rely on it always being there. This is huge. Google, Apple and Microsoft are all working on syncing through the cloud. However, that only goes so far. They are syncing data and not applications. Also, it will be a long time before truly high speed wireless data is everywhere.