Energous unveils tiny wireless charger for wearables

by: Rob TriggsJanuary 6, 2016
407

WattUp wireless charging Wearables

You may remember Energous and it’s rather ingenious radio wireless charging hub that it showcases at last year’s CES. Well the company is back this year, showing off some a new wireless charging chip that could be used to power up your future wearable products.

The new device that the company has been showing off is a simple looking USB dongle, which features Energous’ new small form factor and lower cost RF charging IC. The chip measures just 3 x 3 mm, meaning that it is perfectly suitable for wearables. However, Energous still doesn’t have any products on the shelves yet, so it has housed the IC in a USB dongle that can connect up to other wearable charging ports.

Energous demonstrated the chip charging a Fitbit, a Bluetooth headset and a LED light system at around 6-inches away from the charging hub. At this distance, the chip still managed to provide the same amount of power as their respective wired chargers do. Furthermore, a USB solution like this shouldn’t add a notable cost over a regular charging dock.

Energous' tiny receiver chip

Engadget Energous’ tiny receiver chip

As a recap, Energous’ main wireless RF hub that was unveiled last year and costs around $200 to $300 is able to provide power over quite long distances. It is capable of delivering 5.5 watts of power to devices 5 feet from the hub, around 3.5 watts of power at 10 feet, and 1 watt from 15 feet. The hub uses Bluetooth to locate and target power to receivers, and can also be used to charge multiple devices at once.

“We want to free your mobile devices, or any device less than 10 watts— whether it’s a wearable, mobile device, bluetooth headset—anything that requires power, we want to cut the cord” – Michael Leabman, founder and CTO of Energeous

At CES 2016, the company also announced a new “pocketable” energy router with a much smaller range, which is designed to replace the wired charging hubs that typically ship with today’s wearable products. Again, this technology is all based on radio energy transmission rather than the inductive charging methods used by the likes of Qi or the PMA standards, but is a lower cost alternative to the main router.

Energous is still to convince major mobile manufacturing partners to opt for its technology. The company has been sending evaluation units out and also has a contract with a “tier one” manufacturer, but can’t reveal much more than that. The company is to produce millions of chips and transmitters for the unspecified device, which will launch around the end of the year.

  • Let’s see if I got it. I’m in my bed reading Android Authority articles and a small chip laying on my bedside table is charging my smarphone through wireless technology? If it’s a yes, please tell me carefully or something bad might happen to me ???

    • George

      Coming soon to your house :)) just wonder how come no one is thinking of implementing this to a strip that runs an entire room, or why not, the entire house. It’s quite advanced but instead of shrinking tech it would give enough space to power everything

      • I’m just concerned on the radioactive part of it. Won’t it be bad for people be around a room or house where energy waves are all around?

        • Kieran Mesquita

          Electromagnetic waves aren’t radioactive. As for them causing harm, in large enough quantities yes they can cause harm, but your light-bulb produces much higher energy electromagnetic waves, in the form of visible light. The electromagnetic spectrum is arranged as such:

          Radio -> Microwave -> Infrared -> Visible Light -> Ultraviolet -> X-Ray/Gamma Rays

          Radio and microwaves are harmless, infrared can cause burns if it is intense enough, visible light is pretty much harmless, ultra-violet can cause ionizing damage (which leads to cancer) if intense enough, and X-Rays/Gamma Rays will almost certainly give you cancer outside of a very controlled environment (such as a chemotherapy lab).

          The general idea is that the further up the electro-magnetic spectrum you go, the more harmful the energy is. This device will be transmitting down in the Radio/Microwave area, so visible light is more dangerous than it is.

          Now you may be thinking, “what about microwaves, don’t they make my food hot, aren’t they dangerous to me?”
          The reason a microwave oven is able to do that is that the microwaves in your microwave oven are tuned to a very specific frequency (2,452 MHz to be exact), and the size of the oven is matched to the wavelength of these waves, creating standing waves which can then interact with water molecules, exciting them and making your food hot. Given that the radio waves concerned here are not a generated beam from a magnetron and emitted in a metal box which has been properly sized (your room is too big – needs to be microwave oven sized), and are of a much lower frequency (900MHz is my guess, ISM band, good pass-thru characteristics), no they aren’t harmful.

          • Wow! I couldn’t have asked for a better answer! Thanks for the time you spent writing it! I’m far from an unknowlodged person it those matters but your explanation was explicit enough for me to understand the point! Thanks again :D

          • Kieran Mesquita

            No problem

        • Kieran Mesquita

          On a side note, electromagnetic waves do not “stack”, i.e. 2 phones is twice as harmful as 1 phone. Reason is that electromagnetic waves behave like water-waves, create 2 sets of waves and they cancel each other out. Flooding your room with millions of devices won’t kill you, it’s as dangerous as the most dangerous device there, not much more.