For Microsoft, Wearable Teach Means Wireless Charging Trousers

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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The company helps develop stylish clothing that can charge a smartphone

Microsoft has helped create a pair of smart trousers that can wirelessly charge a mobile device.

According to ABC News, the wearable technology experiment is a collaboration between the Microsoft Mobile team and British fashion designer Adrien Sauvage. The trousers incorporate a Nokia DC-50 charger in one of the front pockets, which operates using Qi (pronounced “chee”) wireless charging technology.

The unusual garment was launched at a fashion show in London last week, and will be available through online retailers in the nearest future, although it is likely to cost several hundred dollars.

Power bank

Trousers designed by Sauvage use electromagnetic induction to charge compatible devices placed into the pocket. The charger itself runs from a built-in battery, which can in turn be charged over Micro USB – so they postpone, rather than replace, the need to plug in and charge up.

George Lamb and Tinie Tempah at the Sauvage launch

It is worth noting that the Qi standard is supported not only by Nokia Lumia smartphones, but also certain devices from HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Samsung and Sony.

The smart trousers are expected to appear on sale through various retailers including Amazon, and will cost upwards of $340 (£200).

While doing promotion for the project, one of the Microsoft executives dropped a hint that the company is readying other wearable devices.

“We’re passionate about having experiences that aren’t reliant on a mobile phone,” Adam Johnson, marketing director at Microsoft Mobile UK told the Drum. “Technology is moving away from just having a standard mobile phone device but also we want to create technology that you want to use and wearables should be.

“At the moment smart watches are the first foray for the industry into wearable technology but we certainly see a world where you have multiple devices on you that sense the world around you.

Microsoft is widely expected to enter the lucrative wearable technology field, where it will compete against Samsung, Apple, Google and Sony, to name a few. Although when exactly this will happen remains a mystery.

Qi is just one of several wireless charging standards, with its closest competitor being Rezence, developed by the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP). Unlike Qi, this technology can simultaneously charge multiple devices from a single charger, and it doesn’t require perfect alignment to work.

The need to carry a battery is something of a disadvantage for these trousers, as other garments promise to charge phones from harvested energy without the need to plug in. Such items often appear a propmotional gimmicks for the festival season – for instance, last year, British telecoms operator EE  promoted smartphone-charging hotpants at the Glastonbury music festival. These required a wired connection, but they generated power through thermal and connect energy harvesting. As is usual for these announcements, we have not seen further evidence of the EE hotpants outside of the press release.

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