Market Insight

Magnetic Resonant and RF Wireless Charging Make Waves at CES 2017

January 09, 2017


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Highlights

  • With only one week gone in 2017, it’s tempting to say that more progress has already been made in the world of wireless charging than in the whole of 2016 – at least from a customer-facing product point of view.
  • The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas has already given two new product launches from Dell and Energous respectively, which represent fundamentally important steps in the long-term progress of wireless power.

A couple of world firsts

In the computing space, Dell announced the new Latitude 7285, a two-in-one tablet that includes a wireless charging enabled detachable keyboard (one of three keyboards available in the range).  The keyboard uses magnetic resonant technology from WiTricity and is compatible with the AirFuel resonant specification.  The device is expected to start shipping to customers around June this year.

Meanwhile over at Energous, a number of short-range RF (uncoupled) wireless charging devices have been announced alongside partners, including a consumer-focused Bluetooth tracker (i.e., for tracking wallets, keys or phones), a medical scanning device with wirelessly charging sensors, a 700mAh power dongle and a hearing aid solution.

Elsewhere, wireless charging continues to gain momentum in adjacent markets such as with the LG Levitating Portable Speaker.

Why so important?

It’s fair to say that momentum in the wireless power market threatened to stall in 2016.  After the number of enabled devices tripled to 150 million in 2015, only the Samsung Galaxy range and Apple Watch remained high profile (and high volume) exponents of embedded wireless charging technology through last year as shipments grew more modestly to top 200 million for the year.

Central to the issue was the continued delay in seeing new product launches offering higher power and greater spatial freedom – two of the most sought after improvements from consumers, according to the IHS Markit Consumer Survey.  Yet despite this, 90 percent of consumers want wireless charging on their next device and 98 percent percent of those who have used it are happy with the experience and would choose it again.

The challenge for convenience-based technology remains the same – how to force someone to change habits for the first time.  Once they’ve experienced wireless charging, they don’t want to go back to wired. The launch of “the world’s first…” in any category is therefore important in pushing the whole market forwards towards the two billion plus receivers per year that could ship in 2025.

In the long-term future, not all wireless charging will be the same.  One-size-fits-all is not true in the wired charging world for all electronic devices, so wireless charging will be no different. A smart IoT sensor, wearable, smartphone, laptop, industrial equipment and electric vehicle all have different power needs!  It’s therefore important that a range of solutions are developed including inductive (such as Qi), magnetic resonant (such as AirFuel Resonant) and uncoupled technologies (such as RF).

What next for wireless power in 2017?

The long wait for the first commercially available magnetic resonant receiver device is now over.  Meanwhile, whilst the long-term vision of uncoupled charging continues to progress too, although only at very low power levels and very short range right now.  Overcoming that first hurdle – to get the first commercially available product launched – is incredible important for the whole industry.

At the Wireless Power Summit in November 2016, IHS Markit told the room that “the wireless power industry is poised to be second and third to the market”.  Much of the technical challenges were worked through behind the scenes during the ‘quiet’ period of 2016. Consumer demand was higher than ever before and more was technically possible for new products in the future too.

2017 has been jump-started at CES and the rumour mill is already at full power for the rest of the year too, particularly for flagship smartphones. Can device shipments double from 200 million to 400 million this year? It’s certainly looking that way now.

IHS Markit continues to cover the wireless power industry with the in-depth Wireless Power Market Tracker.  For more details on this product, please contact us.

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