Wireless Charging Groups A4WP And PMA Team Up Against Qi

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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A4WP and Power Matters Alliance announce partnership to combine knowledge on wireless charging technology

Two of the rival organisations in the world of wireless charging are pooling their resources to take on the third – just possibly bringing a universal wireless charging standard closer.

The Qualcomm-backed Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) have signed an agreement to pool their two technologies, creating  stronger competitor to the group which has looked like the leader, the Wireless Power Consortium’s Qi.

Leading the charge

Google Nexus Wireless Charger 1

Charging devices without plugging in cables has been a tech dream for some time. Although some devices such as some Nokia Lumia phones have been provided with the ability, it’s mostly been the province of electric toothbrushes.  There are two approaches, the older “induction” effect where a device must be placed directly on a charging plate and charged using electromagnetic induction, and the “resonance” effect which operates over a short distance and allows the charging of multiple devices and cars.

PMA’s PowerMat and WPC’s Qi are both induction technologies, while A4WP tech such as Qualcomm’s Rezence uses resonance. While Qi has the lead in devices – it’s built into Google Nexus phones and Nokia Lumias – PMA has been working on getting charging stations installed through deals with outlets such as Starbucks, along with an app and a cloud-based service for finding charging stations.

Now PMA has promised to adopt A4WP for magnetic-resonant charging hardware, while A4WP will add the PMA’s inductive kit (regarded as “legacy”) to its resonance systems, to create multi-mode wireless chargers which can charge using induction and resonance. The two groups will both use and develop the PMA’s cloud services, and its open network API for network services management.

“This announcement delivers a compelling message for the industry to commit and deliver wireless charging devices now. Between the organisations, A4WP and PMA membership consists of the key players necessary to drive industry consolidation and establish a commercially viable globally interoperable wireless charging ecosystem,” said Kamil Grajski, president of A4WP.

Growing partnership

Backed by major companies including Qualcomm, Samsung and Intel, the A4WP was formed in 2012. PMA was also founded that year, by Powermat and Procter & Gamble, but its “legacy” inductive technology goes back further, and is installed in wireless charging spots in a small number of coffee shops, airports, stadiums, restaurants, and gyms in the US, including some Starbucks and McDonald’s stores. PMA  has also signed deals with Google, Delta Airlines, and AT&T to implement its technology,

The deal is designed to compete with the other faction in the wireless charging industry, the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC). Its Qi standard of technology is already used by many mobile manufacturers, including HTC, Nokia and Huawei, and has also attracted support from both Google, which uses Qi technology in its Nexus smartphones. Just to confuse things Qualcomm, the force behind A4WP, is also on the board of Qi.

Wireless charging could become an important part of the technology industry as it moves towards building an Internet of Things (IoT) consisting of devices connecting to each other and a wider network as a whole, with research by Ericsson suggesting that this network could reach 50 billion by 2020.

The near future could well see our smartphones or tablet devices being charged by wireless pads embedded into our furniture. However, fragmentation of the ecosystem is likely to serve as an obstacle to wider adoption, meaning that further co-operation between opposing groups such as the WPC and the new A4WP-PMA partnership should be encouraged in order to accelerate the growth of new technology.

The A4WP also announced that WiTricity, best known for its contactless, long-field magnetic resonance charging of Toyota vehicles, will be joining the consortium as a sponsor and eighth board member. The company will now look to incorporate A4WP’s Rezence specifications into its designs, and is rewarded with a seat on the A4WP board of directors.

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