Energous has been talking up its wireless charging solution WattUp for years. Now it looks like consumer products are finally on the way. At CES 2018, Energous opened pre-orders for the first WattUp-enabled product — the Myant SKIIN. In addition, the company has been demoing wireless charging hearing aids from Delight and SK Telesys.
Myant’s SKIIN itself is pretty interesting. It’s a smart underwear range featuring integrated sensors to monitor your body’s heart rate, activity, posture, and even your hydration levels and temperature. It’s clearly a niche product, but an intriguing concept nonetheless. Energous’ technology comes in when charging the modules that fit into the SKIIN clothing.
Unfortunately, we’re not looking at any long range over-the-air charging here. Instead, up to two modules can be placed on the WattUp charger with any orientation to power them up, delivering power at short ranges. Given that PowerMat and Qi now work in virtually the same way, Energous will have to begin showcasing examples of its longer range wireless charging technology if it wants to offer meaningful product differentiation.
Speaking of which, Energous says the sensors inside the SKIIN products will support the company’s Mid Field and Far Field charging transmitters once they become available. No launch timeframe has been given for these two technologies. Partnered with chip manufacturer Dialog Semiconductor, Energous also showed off its latest chipset, which will enable mid-range wireless charging products at up to three feet in the future.
It’s worth noting Energous’ Mid Field wireless charging solution recently received the first FCC certification for power-at-a-distance wireless charging. This was filed under Part 18 which caters to industrial, science, and medical devices, rather than under the more regularly used Class B consumer electronics section of Part 15. This may be due to the high amount of power required (up to 10W) to transmit energy over that distance. It’s been a cause for concern that a longer range charging device would have to switch off if movement was detected close to the unit, in order to meet FCC safety specifications. The company’s long range 15 foot technology remains unapproved.
With PowerMat and Qi now working with each other at the Wireless Power Consortium, a notable rival in the wireless charging market is probably needed. Energous’s first WattUp product announcement is here, but it’s longer range wireless charging technology remains to be seen.